Wild Colorado: Summit County’s dangerous animals
Ryan Summerlin October 27, 2012
Of all the sounds that go bump in the night, especially in the forested lands of Summit County, the most threatening animal is not one that most would expect.
The moose, though not a predator, is dubbed as the most dangerous animal to humans when surprised or threatened, according to wildlife
“Moose are the only animals that we advise a person to turn and run to get out of the situation as quickly as possible,” said Mike Porras, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “A moose won’t just chase someone, but if they feel threatened they will charge and trample potential predators.”
A moose’s primary defense mechanism is its weight and hooves. Most moose exceed 1,000 pounds. When a moose is ready to attack, it will charge, rear and then trample its victim.
Signs of an imminent attack begins with making eye contact with the ungulate. When a moose is agitated, the fur on its neck will bristle, its ears will turn back and it will charge.
“Moose encounters in Colorado happen often and can be potentially dangerous, but being aware and cognizant of the surroundings will prevent attacks,” Porras said.
Wildlife officials recommend not turning your back on the animal, and if you’re walking your dog, to keep it on a leash.
“The number one predator of moose are wolves,” Porras said. “When a dog approaches them, they feel threatened immediately and are likely to attack.”
Incidents between moose are typically human triggered and can be prevented by respecting the space of these animals.
A common misconception of moose are that their eyes are not reflective, but in reality, the animals are so tall they stand above the headlights in most vehicles, making them hard to see on the road.
“If you’re in a small car it’s a major concern but again, paying attention and being fully aware will prevent most accidents,” Porras said.
Another myth is that if a collision is inevitable, speeding up in an attempt to drive under the animal will prevent damage.
“You’re still hitting a 1,000-pound animal,” Porras said. “If you don’t have the opportunity to slow down, moose are still tall enough and its body could still end up in the driver’s compartment. If you hit any animal, you run the risk of a serious injury or death.”
Moose are excellent swimmers. In the winter they remain in their territory, often in willow marshes, and form “yards,” paths in the deep snow as they paw for food. Moose are aggressive when
Moose are semi-aquatic, wading to feed on aquatic plants and willows in summer. Some ranchers have welcomed the moose as a control on willows, which invade irrigated hayfields, but in winter moose may turn to grazing and thus compete with domestic livestock as well as elk.
They have a very large head with a dewlap of skin, called a “bell,” hanging down from the jaw. Moose have very long legs so they can wade into a lake and eat plants off the bottom. Their legs enable them to paw through deep snow to reach food in winter.
Moose are the largest deer ranging over 9-feet-long, 6-feet-tall at the shoulder, with weights to over 1,000 pounds.
Antlers of bulls in their prime may weigh over 50 pounds. Antler growth begins late winter with the formation of soft “velvet,” the blood-rich skin that nourishes antler growth.
Velvet is rubbed off in fall in preparation for the breeding season. Moose are mainly found as singles or in small groups, not in large herds.