NationalGeographic.com [an error occurred while processing this directive]


 

  Field Notes From
Dance of Death



<< Back to Feature Page




Dance of Death On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Authors/ Photographers

Yva Momatiuk and John Eastcott



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph courtesy Yva Momatiuk and John Eastcott


 

Dance of Death

Field Notes From Authors/Photographers
Yva Momatiuk and John Eastcott
Best Worst Quirkiest
    After wolves repeatedly attacked a young moose over several days, we were able to witness a quintessential part of life in the wild while observing the last hours of its suffering. It ended with an incredible, rare scene of the wolves and a bear eating together from the same carcass.
    We were extremely lucky because the end of the drama took place in the big open river flats where it was easy to view. It would have been impossible to photograph from the distance stipulated by park policy, so the fact that it happened relatively close to the road was quite fortunate for us. All those years of hiking, climbing, sleeping out in the open, freezing, and getting scorched finally paid off. We documented behavior that is rarely seen or photographed. The biologists we spoke to wanted us to tell them about it. It was the culmination of our years of wilderness experience.


    Even though we are seasoned wildlife photographers, we find that life and death situations can affect us deeply. The moose tried so hard to escape death, and we felt sorry for him.  Ravens flew in, sat on his wounded hip, and tore pieces of his flesh while he feebly tried to repel them. They were absolutely relentless. It was difficult to watch this young wounded animal, so exhausted, so scared, so alone, tormented by big birds, with wolves and bears cutting off any path it might use to flee. But we rooted for him, even though he had no hope. Ultimately, we knew that what we were witnessing happened all the time in the wild and that his flesh would help other animals survive.

    Tour buses came rambling up and suddenly all these passengers in colorful clothes began peering out the windows. (They weren't allowed to get out.) They tried to capture the scene with all kinds of cameras and video recorders. We couldn't see their faces for the cameras.
    Still funnier was that some of the tourists obviously didn't photograph much, maybe once a year on vacation. They were busy adjusting knobs, trying to set their cameras, and fumbling for misplaced rolls of film. It was strange to see how few people were observing the amazing scene before them. Most of their attention was focused on the demands of their gadgets.
    To top it all off, the ravens would stop feeding on the carcass and fly over to the buses. They know that people sometimes mean food, so they would land on the roof of the buses and walk around almost impatiently, waiting for snacks and nibbling on dead insects. It was like a story within a story: The incredible drama surrounding the young moose and the small drama going on at the buses.


   


© 2004 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe