Grizzly bears, moose, bison, and many other iconic Yellowstone area animals are hit and killed by speeding motorists, outside the Park, every year. But, now a baby moose that made newspaper and magazine headlines when it survived a raging river, seems all alone. Locals fear it is orphaned and unlikely to survive, because a motorist may have killed its mother.
A heavy snowpack swelled the Shoshone River this spring. A moose cow and calf seemed trapped on an island that was shrinking in the Shoshone Forest near Yellowstone.
Professional Photographer Amy Gerber was one of about a dozen who recorded the drama. She said, “She gave birth on the island. The water was raging. There was no way this little calf was going to get across.”
Werner and Pam Noesner own a cabin in the Shoshone Forest, and work at a nearby lodge.
Pam remembers, “And the cars were lined up literally by the hundreds to watch.”
The calf reportedly went under water while trying to swim across the river. But, finally, they made it to shore. Elephant Head Lodge owners Kevin Millard and his wife Debbie know the calf’s mother. He calls her Ellie.
Millard said, “Seven years we’ve watched previous calves. She’s raised all seven calves.”
She brought this year’s calf to his lodge’s front yard again. His guests are delighted.
He smiled, “They love Ellie the Moose”
But people aren’t seeing Ellie these days. There’s just a small calf.
Gerber commented, “Myself and some others that have kind of followed this story have speculated that maybe this calf that we’ve been seeing the last month on the North Fork is maybe the same calf.”
Wyoming’s Game and Fish told us they found the carcass of a cow moose near this wetland in June. It had been hit and killed by a motorist.
And, most people travelling this road from Cody to Yellowstone ignore the slower speed limit. They pass the cars that are observing the 50 mile per hour limit.
Millard counts the yearly toll: “One or two buffalo killed every year on this highway. We have a few mountain sheep killed on this highway. We have a few elk killed on this highway. Gobs of deer are hit. We’re averaging a grizzly bear a year on this highway.”
Pam Noesnor is angry about the waste. “We do have moose here. Unfortunately they get hit a lot. More than people know.”
Werner said, “A week ago I encountered a mother with a young sheep on a blind curve. And it was amazing. I was trying to stop the traffic because she was trying to get across the road to her young baby.”
Gerber knows the cow that died may not have been the one she photographed. But, “Even if this little calf is not the same calf that we cheered across the river in June, it’s still a calf that’s been orphaned.”
The people who live and work along the river corridor said there should be more signs on the road telling motorists why they should slow down: Because there are animals on the road to Yellowstone.