‘More fight than flight’
summit daily news
SILVERTHORNE ” When Mark Hanschmidt took his yellow lab, Jake, for a walk Sunday night in his Willowbrook neighborhood, he ended up with a little more excitement than he bargained for.
Hanschmidt, a sergeant with the Silverthorne Police Department, said he was charged by a full-grown cow moose right in the midst of the quiet residential neighborhood. He said he feels lucky to have escaped without any serious consequences.
The close encounter in Silverthorne occurred the same day a Grand Lake resident was injured by a moose. Another woman was injured by a moose two weeks ago in Grand Lake.
The events show that even though moose attacks are unusual, the animals are likely to stand their ground aggressively when they meet humans, especially if a dog is on the scene, said Tom Kroening, local manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“Moose are unlike deer or elk in that they all have a fight or flight instinct. But moose are more fight than flight,” Kroening said.
A close call
“I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I look, and all of a sudden, there’s a great big cow elk between two houses,” Hanschmidt said, describing his close call.
At first, the animal was about 50 feet away.
“She put her head down and came toward us. She got to the edge of the road,”
Hanschmidt continued, estimating the distance between himself and the moose at about 30 feet at that point. “I let go of the leash, thinking … I wasn’t sure if she was after me or Jake,” he said. “I jumped over the railing on to a neighbor’s deck. I think I did the right thing (letting go of the leash). She was towering.”
Hanschmidt said he’s decided not to walk his dog at night anymore, so that if he has another meeting with a moose, he’ll be able to back away without further agitating the animal.
“They were here before we were,” he said. “This is their habitat we’re sharing.”
No natural predators
Kroening said that’s a wise move, given that dogs seem to exacerbate aggressive moose behavior.
“They’ll try to stomp on dogs,” Kroening said. “They are big animals and they are not afraid of a lot of things,” he added, explaining that moose don’t really have any natural predators in this area. In some cases, a dog will seek protection by staying close to its owner.
“That brings the moose back to the owner,” Kroening said. “People have a tendency to want to get closer and maybe get a good picture. That’s what I really caution against,” he said. “We’re not going to try and move them out of a subdivision,” he added, explaining the challenges involved with trying to relocate moose.
There are as many as 30 to 45 moose in Summit County, depending on the time of year. Some of the animals move into the South Park area seasonally, though their movements are not as defined as those of deer and elk.
“We have good reproduction rates in Summit County,” Kroening said, explaining that the local population may continue to grow because of decent areas of habitat near local wetlands.
Moose calving season begins early next month, and Kroening said cows will become even more aggressive to protect their young.
In the Willowbrook area, the moose go up and down the riparian corridors of the creek. They are also active around Mesa Cortina and Wildernest, as well as around the north end of Frisco, where they’ve been seen in the large wetlands near the transportation center.
Moose are also common in the Peak 7 area near Breckenridge, and up around Blue River and Goose Pasture Tarn, Kroening said, identifying some but not the only areas of concern.
A full-grown moose can reach 1,000 pounds and stand 6 feet high at the shoulder. Moose kill more people than grizzly bears in Alaska.
Moose encounter ” what to do
” Be respectful and don’t try to get close
” Back away slowly
” Try to get something between you and the animal
” They move fast, so don’t try to out-run them
Source: Tom Kroening, Colorado Division of Wildlife
Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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