As the chances for interactions between human and moose increase in the state, Colorado Parks & Wildlife is offering a gentle reminder that these large wild mammals are still very, well, wild.
CPW released a six-minute video earlier this month detailing “how not to get stomped by the most charismatic animal in Colorado,” according to a press release.
In the video, District Wildlife Manager Elissa Slezak of Summit County offers advice on what to do if you encounter a moose and how to prevent a conflict with it.
“They are a charismatic species that inspire awe and fascination, but people also need to understand how dangerous moose can be if you are irresponsible around them,” Slezak said. “A moose that is provoked can seriously injure or even kill someone."
Because moose do not naturally fear humans, some people seem to think that means they are friendly, she said. It may not pay any attention to a person, even if they approach it, but when the animal has decided something has invaded its space, it can move very fast.
Unleashed dogs are also an issue, Slezak said. Cow moose will aggressively defend their young, as it would if a wolf was nearby. And if the dog runs back to the owner, it will likely be followed by an angry 1,000-pound moose, she said.
"The dog often gets away, but the owner cannot escape and ends up injured instead," she said. "We've seen several instances where that exact scenario played out and the dog owner was seriously hurt."
Should you encounter a moose, look for signs that it is uncomfortable, irritated or angry:
- Raised hackles on the back of their neck
- Licking their snout
- Pinning their ears back against their head
- Kicking and stomping
If a moose starts behaving like this, Slezak recommends running away as fast as possible and finding a tree, boulder or car to get behind. Then, wait for it to leave.
Another issue CPW has seen often is people trying to feed the animals.
"We understand people want to see wildlife up close, but feeding a wild animal is an extremely poor choice," she said. "Feeding includes everything from tossing table scraps to placing salt blocks out for wildlife. We see it happen far too often and we will continue to issue citations. Not only is it illegal, it is also very unethical."
This can change an animal’s natural behavior, and make them comfortable, or even rely on, humans. As a result, the chance of conflict involving the animal increases, which Slezak calls a “death sentence” for the creature.
Any time wildlife injures a human, a CPW officer must put the animal down to protect public safety, regardless of the circumstances.
"Do you want to be responsible for the needless death of moose because you fed it, or purposely got too close?" she said. "Who wants that kind of attention? With everyone on social media these days, you will not only get a ticket, you will also likely be publicly shamed for being foolish. I've seen it happen — that is not a situation you want to be in."
Authorities estimate that there are more than 2,500 moose living in Colorado. And the population is increasing. Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke said the public has a responsibility to learn about avoiding wildlife conflicts as they become more common.
"It's not difficult to get the information," he said. "We suggest you watch the video, read the info on our website and follow the recommendations to protect yourself, and others around you."