I joined my friend and colleague Hugh Rose for a one-day professional photography permit in Denali National Park on Thursday. Historically, (that is over the last 15 years) whenever Hugh and I join up in the park, we encounter something special to photograph, and this short trip rivals all previous ones.
When exiting the park about 8pm, after a very slim day of photography, we stumbled upon a cow moose defending her calf from a lone wolf. Her success at chasing off the wolf was quickly challenged when 5 more of the pack showed up, and absolute organized chaos broke out as the pack strategically lunged at the one week old moose calf. Back-lit in a small tundra pond, the cow moose charged, stomped and splashed. Water was flying everywhere as the wolves attacked them from all angles. It was a real-time spectacle of nature unfolding before our eyes. The calf sought protection under the mom’s belly, as she chased off the pack with her deadly hoofs. But the wolves were cunning and relentless and over time they dragged the calf away from the mother. It was amazing how many times, after thinking the calf was surely dead, it got back up again once the mother fended off the attack. Besides frantically photographing and cheering on the cow moose in her vigilant defense, the odds of survival were obviously slim, and in the end, the wolves were successful in the kill.
It was a scene of mixed emotion, adrenalin and lots of shutter clicks. I’ve heard of similar predator-prey encounters from colleagues over the years, but I’ve never had the chance to see one myself. After nearly 30 years of visiting the park, I guess my turn finally emerged. Below are a few frames from the attack scene, which lasted about 10 minutes (from the time the wolf pack surrounded the moose until they killed the calf and dragged it to the tundra).
Update June 14, 2010
Many have inquired about other frames from this dramatic encounter, so I have them uploaded 67 of them to my stock photo website and they can be viewed at this link: wolf and moose attack photos.