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Moose calving season breeds need for more caution from humans

Derek Maiolo
Steamboat Pilot
Moose calving season has started in the Yampa Valley, and wildlife officials are urging the public to keep their distance. Moose are aggressive animals and will attack people and dogs if they get too close.
Matt Stensland / Steamboat Pilot

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With moose calving season in full swings, wildlife officials are urging the public to give animals an even wider berth than their fellow humans. 

Moose already are among the most aggressive animals in the area, according to Randy Hampton, a local public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. When females are caring for their young, they become even more dangerous.

“A cow moose with a calf is one of the most dangerous animals we have in Colorado,” Hampton said. 

Since 2013, CPW has received reports of at least 15 conflicts with moose in which people suffered minor to serious injuries, according to the agency.  In March, a Steamboat man was trampled by a moose as he was taking an evening walk with his dog near the base of Steamboat Resort. He suffered minor bruising but was able to walk away from the encounter.

Issues with the animals have increased over the past 30 years as their populations rise along with human encroachment into natural lands, according to Hampton.

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Dogs greatly increase the risk of moose conflicts. All but two of the cases in which a moose injured a person there was a dog involved, Hampton said. This is because, in the wild, a moose’s primary predator is a wolf. When a moose sees a dog, it causes an instinctive reaction to protect itself and its young.

“Every moose incident that was severe that I am aware of, except for two, start with someone saying, ‘I was walking my dog when …,’” Hampton said. “It’s the number one factor in moose incidents.”

For that reason, he advises people to keep dogs on a leash while on trails or, particularly during calving season, to leave dogs at home if traveling to an area where moose have been spotted. 

In recent weeks, people have reported seeing moose along many local trails and parks, from Steamboat Resort to the Rita Valentine dog park. Signage has been posted to alert people to the presence of the animals, Hampton said. 

To prevent conflicts with moose, CPW advises people to keep far away from the animals. If people encounter a moose, they should move slowly and avoid looking directly at the animal. They should move farther away if the moose shows signs of aggression, such as raising the hair on its neck, licking its snout, cocking its head or rolling its eyes and ears back. 

Staying safe around moose
  • Signs of moose aggression include laid back ears, raised hairs on the neck and licking of the snout.
  • Avoid animals that are behaving belligerently or abnormally.​
  • Keep pets away, as moose can get quite aggressive around them. Be especially cautious when walking dogs.
  • ​If a moose displays aggressive behavior or begins to charge, run as fast as you can and try to put a large object between you and the moose such as a boulder, car or tree.

Source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife 

With other large predators, such as mountain lions and bears, wildlife officials typically advise people to stand their ground if attacked. That is not the case with moose, according to Hampton. 

“If a moose is charging you, run,” he said.

If possible, people should put something between themselves and the attacking moose, such as a car or tree, to act as a protective barrier.

Moose are not the only ungulates giving birth this time of year. Restrictions are in effect on parts of the Routt National Forest to protect birthing elk, according to the U.S. Forest Service. 

As of May 15, a monthlong, seasonal closure for elk calving temporarily has restricted recreation access to 355 acres in the National Forest on Buffalo Pass. The closure, which expires June 15, includes three popular trails in the area: BTR, Flash of Gold and Great White Buffalo.

“If respected, this closure area provides pockets of habitat where elk find security and food during spring calving without being disturbed by human activities,” said Aaron Voos, a local public affairs specialist with the Forest Service.

For more information, contact CPW at 970-870-2197. Offices remain closed to in-person visitors due to COVID-19.

This story is from the Steamboat Pilot. To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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