"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, September 6, 2015

That Time I Saved a Bull Caribou from Certain Death and Almost Got Wilson Gored by Its Rack

Recently, on what would prove to be the last in a string of remarkably sunny days, I visited a place called Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.  My intent was photography, especially photography in the early evening when the long golden rays of the setting sun might afford some good lighting for pictures.

As the clouds moved in and the golden light dissipated, I got in my truck and headed for the exit.  That’s when I spotted a great opportunity for a photo.   A beautiful caribou was on top of a man-made hill in the caribou pasture.

I stopped, got out and took photos for a while.

A bull in rut ascended the hill and took the rutting/herding posture, head low and grunting.  All the other caribou, all males too, gave way and let him have his hill.

The bull descended the pile of dirt and rocks, found a piece of plastic bag or thin plastic wrapping, and began eating it.  I knew this meant a long and painful death for the animal if it got into its gut, so I jumped in the truck and headed for the visitor’s center.  I found an animal attendant and told him.

He, Wilson, said, “Oh, no!”   He sprinted for the caribou pen, climbed the fenced, and jumped down into the pasture.

The rutting bull took offense.

The angry bull is on the right.

Wilson backed off.  He tried the usual means of yelling and waving his arms, but the bull advanced.

Wilson ran for the fence on the other side and grabbed a long tree limb, intending to use it to run off the bull.

That didn’t work, either.  

The second bull is just curious.

“Don’t worry, I’m documenting it all,” I yelled to Wilson, waving my camera in the air and grinning.

“I’ll get something that makes noise and run him off,” said Wilson as he climbed out of the pen.   The caribou resumed chewing on the plastic.  

Shortly, Wilson entered the regular gate with a John Deere utility vehicle.

The bull stands its ground.

The bull thought about it, and gave way just a little.   Wilson got out of the ATV, grabbed the piece of plastic, and searched for more.   The bull returned to watch.


 The bull was not happy.

Wilson came out of the locked gate with the ATV as I was approaching the exit and we chatted for a bit.
“This is all fill that came off the highway project,” he said.   “No telling what’s in it.”   Lots of litter, I thought.   As near as we could tell, the caribou had merely chewed on the plastic without swallowing any of it.

Wilson thanked me for my warning and went on his way.

All the caribou were now in one spot, so I got out and continued taking photos for a few minutes.    

And then I drove home, happy that Wilson hadn’t been gored and that ornery bull caribou would live to climb his hill again.


  1. I don't know what they are feeding them but that large bull sure has some weird antlers.

    1. Most unusual antlers. The bull in rut had a normal rack. I've never seen the other kind before.

  2. Wilson is cute ... good that you got a photo of him! Smiles ... Patti

  3. You got some great pictures and the narration is fun. They are beautiful animals.


  4. A very interesting post. Some phenomenal photos. I shudder to think of the things that could be in the highway fill. I am surprised the bull did not charge anyone. Smiles .. Reindeer in Mongolia? I hope so .. Cap ..