Quandary: How to avoid and handle wildlife encounters
August 5, 2016
What should I do if I inadvertently get too close to a moose?
Wanders with Wildlife
Dear Wanders, I have to be honest, I'm getting sick of the blatant sizeism that runs rampant in this county. Do I not have horns? Am I not a hoofed, wild and potentially hostile animal?
But no, no one ever asks what to do when they run into a mountain goat. They get off bikes, stop, stare and pull out the selfie sticks before I even get a chance to lower my head. "Oh look at the mountain goat, junior. The goat says, 'baaa.'" Well, not this goat. Not today. So let me give you some advice for if you run into a vicious, highly-aggressive mountain goat, which also happens to work if you run into a moose.
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First off, be smart enough to do the little things to avoid any kind of an interaction. Some wild animals might be herbivores, others scavengers or carnivores, but we all appreciate an easy meal. Don't make yourself too appealing to the wildlife and avoid feeding anyone, even those annoying birds that just squawk and squawk at you all day. Why do you think they do it? It's because someone else has fed them before, and just like you remember which restaurant has the best burgers in town, the wildlife knows where to get some easy grub. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, "it is illegal to feed deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn and elk in Colorado." Feel free to add moose to the list for you own personal benefit as well.
The truth of the matter is, we're all fairly easy going guys. I've been hanging out in these mountains for years with nary an ear tag or a criminal record to show for it. Chances are if you leave us alone, we'll leave you alone as well. Basically if I charge you, it's probably your fault. There are rare occasions where accidents happen and we all end up in close quarters inadvertently, but for the most part, it's your fault. Don't like it? Well, there's not much you can do about it. After all who do you think they're going to believe: the two-legged oaf with a PB&J trail leading from his car, or the sweet innocent mountain goat off trying to have a little me time?
Anyhow, now that I've passed the buck, if you do happen to catch the eye of a wild neighbor, the end is not necessarily near for you. You'll know you've come too close to a moose if the hair on the back of his neck stands up, it starts to cock its head to the side or roll its eyes and ears back. The most important thing is to remain calm. This isn't like seeing Phish out of their native habitat, screaming and fawning can result in far worse than a brush off by a security guard. If you do see a moose, don't head straight for them, it's really freaky. Imagine spotting someone across the grocery store and pointing your course directly at them. Trust me, no one likes that kind of behavior.
Sometimes all it takes is a little civility to fend off an attack, though. Stand up straight and announce yourself. By making yourself look bigger, we are less likely to pick on you — same for humans, right? And speaking loudly and forcefully let's us know you are not in the mood to be a chew toy — OK, not a big fear from me, but you could easily become a hood ornament for my horns or a moose's antlers, if you're not careful. Finally, back away slowly. Turning around might kick in some kind of prey drive with those in the tooth-and-claw gang, and at least that way you'll see it coming if your run into — or get run into — by a moose or a goat.
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