She’s the Moose Whisperer. At least that is how some might describe Laramie resident Kathy Milks, owner of Dynamic Endeavors Photography. She has a real knack for finding moose in both the Snowy Range and on Pole Mountain.
Her photography captures the majesty of this animal, while other images show their somewhat goofy side.
Milks recently got top honors in the Wyoming’s Nature category of the Wyoming Public Media 2021 Photo Contest. In her photo, the moose is feeding on willows and looks rather wild-eyed.
“I think he was reaching for the higher branches,” Milks said. “I took the photo while I was on the cab of my truck across the road. Maybe he was giving me the side-eye as I watched him eat.”
Milks makes an effort to keep far enough away to not disturb the moose to get the treat of watching it act naturally.
“I don’t want to invade their space,” Milks said. “I am the visitor, so I try to be respectful and keep my distance.”
Milks said another key to photographing not only moose, but other wildlife, is to have patience. Don’t go to the mountains for a day and then feel skunked when failing to see a moose. It can take many trips to get lucky, or maybe that one outing will do the trick. There is just no way to know, but Milks said the more a person is outdoors the more likely they’ll see a moose.
If she’s driving and spots a moose, Milks settles in and waits. She may get in the bed of her truck or even on the cab, but most important is to be patient.
“I’ve watched people chase after moose with their cellphone cameras,” Milks said. “The moose quickly go into the woods and certainly that person doesn’t get much of a photo.”
Knowing where to look for moose also is important, and it helps to understand something about their biology. Moose are specially adapted to feel comfy in the middle of a Canadian winter. Where they have difficulty is in the summer months when temperatures rise.
Their fur is actually hollow. This allows the moose to stay warm in the winter and also makes them buoyant while swimming. Air is trapped inside the layer of fur and also inside each individual hair, which prevents the moose from losing heat and prevents cold air from reaching its skin. The moose sheds the heavy guard hairs and grow new ones each spring, but this made-for-winter hide makes it difficult for moose to get comfortable in the summer.
Moose don’t fare well when summer temperatures get above 57 degrees or when winter temperatures are higher than 23 degrees.
This need to keep cool helps in locating moose this time of year. Look for them in wet areas where lounging in the water keeps them cool or near wooded areas that provide needed shade.
In addition to looking for moose from roads, Milks also enjoys hiking and has come across moose when on foot. That can get dicey, especially when she has canine pals along. She gets her dog on a leash quickly and, when possible, takes another path to avoid the moose.
Milks recalled getting charged by one particularly cranky moose. She went into “squirrel mode.” She responded similar to how a squirrel reacts when chased up a tree by a dog.
“The squirrel keeps on the opposite side of the tree from the dog,” Milks said. “That’s what I did when the moose charged me, keeping a big tree between the animal and me.”
While moose can hear and smell very well, they don’t see that great. This is due mostly to the placement of their eyes where they’re more on the side of the head, leaving a blind spot right in front of them. They also have an elongated snout, similar to that of a horse, rather than the short nose of an elk. The elongated head aids in bending over for water and reaching high into trees. The moose can even feed underwater thanks to nose flaps that close when water pressure increases.
With snow in the forecast, the opportunity to view moose from a vehicle may be on the wane. There’s still time, though, to search for these magnificent animals. Once spotted, be patient and watch the moose be a moose. The reward could be a unique photograph where the animal is doing the unexpected — or maybe even gets a crazed look in his eyes.