The other day, James West was driving near his home in Alaska when something caught his eye. Lingering behind some dumpsters off the road, West spotted a young moose.
“It was odd to see a moose there,” West told The Dodo.
Looking closer, it became odder still.
At second glance, West noticed that something was in the moose’s mouth. Unsure of what it was, West decided to stop and get a better look.
“I made my way closer to investigate,” West said. “The closer I got, I could tell his breathing wasn’t right and he was chewing profusely … It was at that time my heart sunk into my stomach.”
West realized that the moose had a plastic garbage bag lodged down his throat. He was struggling to breathe with that deadly obstruction.
“I knew immediately that he needed help. And fast,” West said.
Wild moose are known to be defensive against perceived threats getting too close, so West was cautious as he approached — attempting to earn the animal’s trust in the process.
“The speed and power of a moose is unforgiving. It would only take one kick to hospitalize someone, if not kill them,” West said. “[But] after about 10 minutes of talking to him and slowly getting closer, he definitely understood I was not there to hurt him.”
When West finally got close enough, he grabbed the trash bag dangling from the moose’s mouth and began to pull.
“[It] came out moderately easy,” West said.
Being rid of that choking plastic, the moose suddenly transformed.
“He began to get to what I could only describe as excited and playful,” West said. “There was actually a point in time I was worried he was going to try to play with me and I’d get hurt unintentionally, like a big, clumsy puppy.”
With that, the moose seemed to regard West as a friend.
Afterward, West decided to clean up other bits of trash and debris from the ground around the dumpsters and drop them inside so they wouldn’t be a threat to other animals. While doing so, West found a pumpkin someone had tossed out.
He offered it to the hungry moose, who gobbled it up eagerly.
“He was definitely high spirited and happy,” West said. “I stayed there for about an hour, watching him eat and play. I took some photos and simply felt relieved things turned out the way they did.”
Eventually, West departed — leaving the once imperiled animal in a far better state than he’d found him.
In some ways, it was a thankless good deed, as no words had been exchanged. But for West, being there to save a life came as its own reward.
“The gratification I got from the moose was way more than enough,” he said.