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Best of the Tetons

Two Calves and their Mom

Baby Moose of the Tetons

Sometime during the last few days of May and first couple of days in June, mother Moose give birth to one or two remarkably small babies. Adult Shiras Bull Moose may grow to 1000 pounds or more, but they begin their life on long, wobbly legs. I’ve never been privileged to witness the actual birth, but have seen them soon afterwards on a few occasions.

Newborn Calf

Mothers are usually very close to the newborns, and though I’ve never witnessed it, can be aggressively protective of their young. Initially, flight is not much of an option. (June, 3, 2012)

Resting Mother and Calves

Newborn Bison are sometimes called “Red Dogs”, due to their orangish red colored fur. Baby Moose share the color initially. (June 7, 2012)

Two Calves and their Mom

A few years ago, I received a phone call from an area biologist doing a paper on the Grand Teton Moose. He was interested in photos of Cows with twins—suggesting it is a relatively uncommon occurrence in most other areas. That information was a bit of a surprise to me, since I’ve seen twins regularly over my 10-11 years of photographing Moose. The biologist was trying to determine if the phenomenon is a hereditary trait in this region, of maybe just the result of abundant Spring food. I sent him quite a few photos. (July 15, 2013)

Young Calf

This Mother Moose spent a week or so near the Taggart Lake Trail Head parking area, along with another Cow and Calf. She stayed back from the ridge and allowed fast flowing Cottonwood Creek form a natural barrier on the back side. Tourists viewed safely from the ridge above. Other Mother Moose have spent time in campgrounds and near zones with heavy tourist activity. I’ve always assumed this was not by accident. In GTNP, Wolves typically stay away from humans. Possibly the Moose tolerate a little human interaction to protect their babies? Farther North, another Mother Moose regularly used the small pond near the Jackson Lake Lodge entrance in the same way.  I was informed a Grizzly killed her calf. In the northern areas of the park, where Grizzlies and Wolves are more common, I believe the Moose population has declined significantly. Before their introduction, tourists commonly saw Bull Moose in the  Oxbow Bend and Willow Flats areas. (June 5, 2012)

Scruffy Mom

In early June, almost all adult Moose look scruffy. Last year’s long winter fur will soon be replaced with a fresh, sleek coat. At about this time, some of the adult Bulls will begin showing “light bulb” sized velvet antlers. (June 6, 2008)

Two Calves

In June of 2012, I was fairly sure there were two Cows with twins along the Gros Ventre River. I also believe there was another set of twins hanging around Schwabacher Landing. Last year, I am fairly sure there were two sets of calves and another Cow with a single calf hanging around Schwabacher Landing. (June 7, 2013)

Running Calf

Young Calves seem to enjoy “checking out their new set of wheels”—and almost always within close proximity of its mother. (June 6, 2008)

August Calf

By August, the red fur is being replaced by darker fur. Their legs are longer and they tend to range a little farther from the mother. By this age, a mother Moose and calf will be more likely to flee from danger than stand and fight. (August 8, 2016)

Young Calf

The little Calves are so darned cute! It seems that if the mother Moose is not concerned about danger, the Calves are inquisitive. (June 6, 2008)

May 23, 2007

This isn’t a great shot of a pair of baby Moose, but I included it on this page for two reasons. First, it was taken on May 23, 2007. As far as I know, I don’t have digital photos of baby Moose born before May 23.  Second, these little critters are not always easy to spot. When I do see them, the odds are fairly good they’ll be in the same general region for several days. At that time of the year, the rivers are usually swollen, so they will typically stay on the side of the river they were originally spotted. (May 23, 2007)

Moose Crossing

This set of twins was photographed within roughly 50 feet of where I had seen the pair earlier. I kept going back and it eventually paid off as they crossed a small side channel of the Gros Ventre. (June 9, 2007)

Baby Moose

During the rut, Cow Moose can be quite vocal when around a Bull. There can be a lot of moans and groans on their part. After the Calves are born, they seldom make sounds, but somehow the babies understand what she wants them to do. Whatever it is,the signal is subtle. (July 15, 2015)

Two Calves

This photo was taken at Schwabacher Landing in late August of last year. The Cow was feeding on leaves and aquatic vegetation on the East side of the Beaver Ponds. She looked to the West, then make some sort of snort and these two calves rushed to her from the far side of the ponds. (August 30, 2016)

Nursing Calves

The Cow met the two calves in the deep grass where they nursed for a few minutes. Afterwards, the Cow moved into the Beaver Pond and the two semi-independent calves wandered as much as a hundred yards downstream. (August 30, 2016)

Schwabacher Landing

Late August is a time of “personal conflict”. If I’m lucky, I’ve found a quiet, beautifully lit scene like this. Yet, I know one or two of the Bulls will be starting to scrape their velvet. (August 26, 2016)

Washakie

This Bull Moose, one I call Washakie, stripped his velvet on September 1st. I was there, but I could have easily been standing next to the side of a river with young moose feeding on fall grasses! (September 1, 2016)

River Crossing

Typically, I love capturing a mature Bull Moose crossing a river, while I am slightly less motivated when a single Cow Moose crosses. But, throw in a young Moose with the Cow and I am ready to snap away! (July 15, 2016)

High Stepper

As the babies mature, they begin showing some additional personality and independence. (September 18, 2012)

Foggy Morning

These two Moose were aware of me on the other side of the foggy pond, but never looked too concerned about it. A snap of a branch definitely caught their attention, and they quickly moved away from the sound. (August 20, 2016)

Swimming Calf

The Cow walked through the shallow pond with no problems, but the baby had to swim. I think they can swim on day one if necessary. I spotted this pair one morning while on a tour. We got a few shots, of course, but I went back the next day for first light. I returned the next day but they had moved on. (August 20, 2016)

Cow and Calf

Of course, we all take photos of a Moose or a Bison standing in the sagebrush or grassy fields, but the ones I really watch for are either “action or interaction”. (June 16, 2016)

Romance

I followed this Bull for close to a mile as it searched for this Cow. Occasionally, it would stop and sniff the air, then continue a bee line towards the cow. The calf was probably born in early June of 2008, so the Cow would not be “back in season” that year. Maybe next year, when the cow kicks the youngster off on its own. The bull stayed with the pair for a while, then moved on. (October 10, 2008)

Cow and Calf in Side Channel

The young Moose follows it mother as it learns the various food sources. Most of the summer, they feed on willow leaves along the river bottom and aquatic vegetation in the side channels and ponds. By Fall, they learn to feed on the Bitter Brush found alongside the Sagebrush. (August 21, 2013)

Summer Twins

Last year, I kept seeing a young bull and cow together consistently. They appeared to be the same size and age and seldom strayed far from each other. While I wouldn’t have any evidence, I always assumed they were siblings that stayed together after being weaned from their Mother a year earlier. Very few of the Teton Moose are collared or tagged. (June 23, 2012)

Cow and Calf

I spotting these two coming out of the Buffalo Fork River bottom near Moran Junction. They crossed the road and continued North. I could have driven by a minute earlier and missed them, or a few minutes later and missed them once they moved into the forest. Even though I might have worked hard to get a few of the shots on this page, there’s always a fair amount of luck involved. Also, most tourists have breakfast and eventually make their way into the park around 9:00 am in the summer. For them, that’s early! By 9:00, most Moose will be bedded down in the shade, so their odds of seeing any moose goes way down. For best results, plan on eating a quick snack at the motel or condo, and be out for sunrise. Have your full breakfast after 9:00!  (June 13, 2011)

Calf In Water

If you are hoping to see the tiny Moose, plan your trip for the first week in June. Some will have already been born in late May, so you could have a variety of chances! (June 5, 2012)

I should also mention the viewing distance rules in Grand Teton National Park. The 100 Yard Rule(s) The law requires you to be AT LEAST 25 YARDS from wildlife (100 yards from Bears and Wolves). Even with the rules in place, many people want to get closer. With Moose, I try to stay back at least 40 yards, and with a Mother Moose, I think the distance should be even farther. For the past several years, I have been using a Tamron 150-600mm lens, so I simply don’t have to be close for a large mammal.

Teton Photo Excursions

Please, if you are coming here for wildlife photography, invest in a good telephoto lens (the Tamron lenses are in the $1000-$1400 range, and Sigma and Nikon have similar versions and prices. Prime lenses can cost between $7000 and $12,000). Don’t expect to get images like the ones on this page with an iPhone! If you are interested in a (licensed) Private One-On-One Photo Tour with me, and if you have a Nikon DSLR, you even borrow one of my Tamrons for the tour.

Two Fall Calves

By late Fall, “calves of the year” will be strong, nimble and more independent. They will be able to “high step” through the sagebrush and upcoming winter snow. They will stay with their mother until at least the rut of the following year when the young bulls will split off from their mother. Yearling cow calves often hang close for most of the next year. (October 23, 2016)

Get Up!

If this bull gets his way, there will be another baby Moose or two along the Gros Ventre next Spring. This cow probably won’t be ready this year, however. (October 6, 2016)

Equipment Used on These Images: Some of these images date back to 2007 and continue through the summer of 2016. During that time, I’ve changed and added bodies and lenses on numerous occasions. Many of the original images were taken with a Nikon D300 (1.5 crop factor DX body) and a Nikon 70-200mm lens. Other times, I would have used a Nikon 200-400mm lens with that body, but the mid-range lens worked fine. When I purchased a Nikon D4, (full frame FX body), I often used the Nikon 200-400mm lens. By the time I purchased the D5 and D810 full frame bodies, I had added a Tamron 150-600mm lens, which has more range and is lighter than my Nikon 200-400m. Recently, I updated to a Tamron 150-600mm lens, but haven’t been totally satisfied with it. Mixed in, I also used a Nikon 200-500mm lens on either a D5, D810, and D500. On some days, I trek into the river bottoms on reconnaissance missions, just hoping to see something. A few of the shots on this page were taken with a Nikon D4 and a Nikon 28-300mm lens. I use a D5 and that lens now when I know I will be covering a lot of ground and don’t want to bang my back with a heavy tripod and body/telephoto lens.

Additional Moose Feature Posts:


Please, if you like this post, SHARE it with your friends! > MJ

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Comments (9)

  1. Mike as always, great set of photos. But these are special … SPECIAL. We could look for mom and baby moose all our lives and never get the chance to see them like this. Absolutely beautiful and it tells such a touching, loving story. I’ll be looking for you to help me get a chance to see a mom and baby this May or June.

  2. Sherry N Hipp

    Mike,
    You have outdone yourself, these moose photos are precious.

    Anyone traveling to or through Jackson should book a trip with Mike to see the amazing critters of the Tetons.

  3. Lowell Schechter

    Mike , wonderful images of the Moose and the baby Moose . Love the interaction between the two .

  4. Thanks for all the efforts in writing and outstanding photo’s. I can only imagine how long it takes to do a big blog such as this one.

  5. Those are some of the kind of images I hope to get this spring. Although, I may be a week or two too early….. Great stuff as usual Mike!

  6. Hi Bill….I sincerely hope you can find a few of the babies on your trip. There’s always a little luck involved, but much of it is a result of time in the field finding their prime nursing areas.

  7. Kathleen

    Absolutely love these! We are making our 1st ever trip to the Tetons in Sept. and my number one goal is to see these beautiful creatures!

  8. J. Kevin Smith

    Amazing and beautiful!
    Where we live in Southern Florida, on the Gulf Coast we have wildlife however not the abundance of larger wildlife that is indigenous to your part of the country.
    You would truly laugh if you saw what we consider a “large” south Florida Deer!
    Keep up the excellent work!

  9. J. Kevin, when we were at Sanibel last year, there was a recent report of a Panther at one of the wildlife refuges. It was walking down a boardwalk! You have gators! (and pythons and iguanas, too) I certainly like the variety here in the Tetons.

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