The sight of two powerful bull moose locking horns in combat is something that metaphorically can become frozen in time for those lucky enough to experience such an event, but for a pair of Alaskan hikers, they were lucky enough to see such a battle literally frozen in time.
As National Geographic explained on Friday, Brad Webster, a science and social studies teacher working at a Bible camp near the city of Unalakleet, was hiking along the Bering Sea earlier this month when he found the duo entombed together in a layer of ice thick enough to walk on.
The two were apparently having it out either over territory or a potential mate when their antlers become locked together and they fell into the water, which would have quickly become frozen as temperatures fell. Powerless to escape, the moose froze to death, their conflict unresolved.
The 33-year-old Webster, who was hiking along with a friend at the time, told the Washington Post that they were “both kind of in awe. I’ve heard of other animals this had happened to, but I’ve never seen anything like this.” They showed it to another friend, 57-year-old Jeff Erickson, posted photos of the phenomenon to social media, where they quickly went viral.
So what exactly happened to these ill-fated combatants?
In an email to the Post, Kris Hundertmark, chair of the biology and wildlife department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, explained that male moose often lock antlers and push against each other while competing over females during their annual fall breeding season.
The antlers of adult moose tend to be extremely strong, but also have “complex” shapes which can become so entangled that it becomes difficult for the combatants to separate. In this case, he said, the moose likely fell into the water while locked in combat and drowned – which, he noted, is “quicker… than by getting locked together in some forest and slowly starving to death.”
The entangled moose ended up being frozen under eight inches worth of ice, according to Nat Geo, but have since been freed. The plan, Erickson said, “is to remove [their heads] intact for a very unique head mount,” adding that finding them was “[a] once in a lifetime experience.”
by Chuck Bednar NOVEMBER 21, 2016