Sean Reynolds is a River Ranger for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. While conducting a routine White Cliffs patrol, he experienced something quite unusual and exciting this past week. Here’s his diary.
My fellow Ranger, Aaron Conway, and I were on a normal 3 day canoe patrol through the White Cliffs, and on the last night we wanted to camp around the Flat Rock area on the south side of the river. We wanted to camp around that area because there is a hidden coulee that we have wanted to hike for some time now, feeling that there was something special about the place. That night, we had no energy to hike, so we actually went to sleep by 8, despite the heat. I woke up at 6 to go for a good morning hike up in the hills, and I heard a weird groan outside in camp. I thought, “that’s strange, Aaron isn’t usually up this early”. Then I heard loud splashes, as if someone was walking up. I unzipped my tent fly and standing there about 30 feet from my tent, out in the river, was a moose!
I began to shake with excitement, because this sort of encounter is just unheard of out in the Missouri Breaks. I had my camera close to hand, so I instantly grabbed it and was able to snap a series of pictures while it walked through our camp. At one point, it was walking towards Aaron’s tent. Not wanting him to miss this incredible experience, I whisper/shouted his name. I saw him sit up in his not so private, all mesh screen tent, and his first view that day was a young moose, just 8 feet away staring down at him! The two year old cow moose at this time had had enough of us and our campsite, and she wasted no time in running up the hill. Now, I’ve seen a fair number of cool things in my four seasons out on the river, but I never thought I would see a moose striding out through the sagebrush, cacti and yucca!
Aaron and I talked for a while about how exciting and rare that encounter was, and how lucky we were to witness the moose. He mentioned that he heard some grunting and splashing the night before, but didn’t think to look outside. Later, our upstream neighbors at Flat Rock also said that they heard the splashing in front of their site, but no one took a look outside. With all the bovine, deer and elk out there, surely those are the only things splashing around, right? I ended up going for the hike that we River Rangers have wanted to embark on for long time now, and sure enough it’s where the moose was hanging out. With a little spring seep, lush vegetation, and dark coulee walls, it must have found enough habitat to live there for a while.
Surely just passing through, the moose seemed out of place on the muddy Missouri. But wouldn’t it be great to have a population established out there? This appears to be about the only documented sighting of a moose on the Missouri below the confluence of the Marias River. Let’s hope we have more!
-Ranger Sean Reynolds
Please feel free to share your own wildlife encounters in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. This place holds treasures and tales that have yet to be told!