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Parks and Wildlife warns public to be wary of moose

These two bull moose were seen June 24 off U.S. Highway 160 near Echo Basin Ranch. (Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
Mothers will aggressively defend their calves; woman is chased south of Ouray in Ironton Park

Moose are raising young calves and will aggressively defend them if they feel threatened, Colorado Parks and Wildlife says.

The public is reminded to give moose plenty of space and to not approach them because they can be unpredictable and dangerous. They might react aggressively to dogs, which they see as predators.

On June 11 or 12, a woman walking south of Ouray in the Ironton Park area was repeatedly charged and followed by a moose that was reportedly protecting her calf, said John Livingston, Southwest Region public information officer for CPW.

The woman, who was not identified, was uninjured, but had scrapes and bruises as she fled from the animal through the brush, he said.

That area of thick willows and wetlands is prime moose habitat.

Last week, two bull moose were seen along U.S. Highway 160 near Echo Basin, he said.

There is a tendency for the public to try to get a closer look at a moose, which can result in it charging, Livingston said.

“They look kind of docile, but it does not take much for them to flip the switch and become agitated and aggressive,” he said. “They’re faster than they look and can cover ground very quickly with those long legs.”

An incident in Teller County prompted CPW to renew its call for caution in the backcountry, according to a news release.

On Thursday, a hiker and a dog off leash were charged by a cow moose with a calf on the popular Crags Trail off Highway 67 south of Divide.

The hiker told CPW her dog was running off-leash when a cow moose charged from the brush, chasing the dog. The hiker said she yelled at the moose, and it turned and charged her. In her effort to run, she fell and suffered a broken arm.

The hiker told CPW the moose stood over her until it resumed chasing the dog. Eventually the moose and calf wandered off, and the hiker and her dog retreated down the trail to her car.

CPW officers posted warning signs on the Crags Trail on Friday urging people to avoid the area and, if they proceed, to be especially alert to moose along the trail.

The incident is another in a series of recent moose conflicts that have resulted in injuries to people in Colorado. In at least two others, cows were defending their calves.

Lori Shields poses for a photo with the Priest Lake moose in the background. Wildlife officials advise people to keep their distance from moose because they can become aggressive. (Courtesy photo)

One was on a woman running on a trail in Breckenridge on May 26. The second was on May 31 in Grand Lake when a woman encountered a moose 5 feet away in willows near her home. As she started running away, she fell down and then felt the moose stomp on her back and head.

“This incident is a reminder of why we warn everyone to respect wildlife and give them their space,” said Tim Kroening, CPW’s area wildlife manager for the Pikes Peak region. “We know Colorado residents love their dogs. But to keep them safe, we urge people not to take their dogs into wildlife habitat during fawning and calving season and never let them off-leash.”

As a precaution against run-ins with moose, Kroening urged hikers to avoid thick willows in riparian areas where they are likely to be found eating or resting. Their calves, born in a three- to four-week period from the end of May to mid-June, are often lying in the willows while their mother is off grazing.

Calves, which weigh 26 to 28 pounds at birth, typically gain about 2 pounds of weight per day, reaching weights of 385 to 400 pounds by October.

Avoid a moose that sees you and walks toward you; it is not being friendly. Other signs of moose aggression are ears laid back, hairs on rump raised and licking the snout.

If a moose charges, run and get behind a large rock or tree. If it continues approaching get as much distance from it as possible and climb a tree if necessary.

CPW produced a video illustrating how people can be safe and responsible around moose. The video is available on YouTube.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com