A bull moose, dubbed Cowboy by wildlife photographer Michael Wigle, hangs out with a herd of cows he befriended in the Bella Coola Valley west of Williams Lake. Wigle said this is the second year a moose has left the Chilcotin for the safety of the valley. Michael Wigle photo

Young bull moose makes himself at home among the cows

Cattle don’t seem to mind the unusual visitor to the Bella Coola valley

Residents of the Bella Coola Valley are enjoying a repeat visit from a very special tourist this fall.

Nicknamed “Cowboy,” a young bull moose seems to have taken up residence with a herd of cows just west of the Tweedsmuir Provincial Park boundary.

“He’s the talk of the town,” wildlife photographer Michael Wigle said Thursday of the moose he captured images of the day before. “A lot of people stop and look at him.”

Wigle was heading to the Atnarko River with his camera gear to take pictures of grizzly bears gathering to feast on the pink salmon run when he first saw the moose bedded down with the cattle.

“I had to do a triple-take,” Wigle said, noting the same thing happened last year.

“He must be the same guy. What other bull moose would come into the valley and spend September and October with a herd of cows?”

Wigle said it’s very rare to see a moose in the valley, and that they usually live on the Chilcotin plateau.

The irony that the moose appeared at the start of hunting season, in an area restricted from hunting, isn’t lost on residents.

“He seems pretty protected,” Wigle said, laughing. “I don’t know if he knows that though.”

Wigle said he thinks it’s a win-win situation for all the animals: The moose gets protection from hunters while the cows get extra muscle to deal with area wolves, one of which Wigle saw just down the road from the moose.

As a photographer, Wigle is used to being patient to “get the shot,” so to literally drive up to the bull moose and be able to watch him at length was quite a treat, he said.

“You spend hours setting up shots, waiting for just the right moment and then all of the sudden with this you get 10 minutes of glory. It made my day.”

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