A 31-year-old man was seriously injured after he and his pregnant wife were charged by an aggressive moose near the town of Nederland, Colorado.
According to a press release from the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, who’s officers were first on the scene, the couple was out for a hike on the morning of June 8 when the cow moose attacked. The woman sustained minor injuries and one of the couple’s dogs was injured in the encounter as well.
“We tried to leave right away with our dogs, Lenny and Moshi,” the woman told the Denver-based Fox 31 from the hospital the day after the attack. “I heard my husband screaming behind me. He had fallen to the ground and the moose was stomping him, and he screamed that he couldn’t use his leg.”
Jason Clay, a public information officer with Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) told MeatEater that the attack came after the couple and their dogs surprised the cow moose while coming around a bend in the trail that was hemmed in by large rocks.
“You walk uphill and after you go around a bend, on the right there’s a big rock outcropping,” Clay said. “They didn’t see that there was a moose and a calf right there, and so it made for a dangerous surprise encounter.”
Clay said aggressive behavior is typical of mature cow moose in the springtime when the animals are apt to be protecting nearby offspring.
“It should be expected this time of year that cow moose will be aggressive in defending their young,” he said. “They’re not really tolerant of human presence around them in close proximity, and moose in particular are never going to be tolerant of dogs.”
Clay said that at least one of the couple’s dogs “was off leash but still under control of the owner.”
Upon arriving at the scene and reaching the injured couple, a Boulder County Sheriff's deputy attempted to haze the moose by firing bean bags at it.
These initial attempts caused the mature cow to flee the area, but she soon returned, prompting the deputy to fire a warning shot with a firearm. In the wake of the warning shot, the cow dispersed, but it eventually returned one more time.
“As the deputy and medics were evacuating the injured male to the trailhead, the moose returned to the area for a third time,” the Boulder County Sheriff's Office press release reads. “The moose continued to charge at people, so the deputy discharged his weapon and killed the moose.”
This incident marks the third recorded moose attack in Colorado this spring. All three attacks have involved cow moose defending calves.
“There was an attack on May 26 in Breckenridge,” Clay said. “In that incident, a trail runner came across a moose with a calf. And then there was another one in Grand Lake on May 31. That involved a woman outside of her home who came across a cow with a calf.”
Unlike other members of the deer family, moose rarely flee when encountering people.
“They are different from some of the other big game species that you encounter,” he said. “Your deer and elk, a lot of times they’ll hear you or detect you coming if you’re out hiking. Most often they’ll get out of the way before you know it. Moose are going to stand their ground, and they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing. That’s just their temperament. It’s up to us as humans to stay out of their way.”
Shortly after the deputy was forced to dispatch the charging moose near Nederland, wildlife officials with CPW returned to the scene to retrieve her orphaned calf. The agency’s veterinary staff, now caring for the animal, says it’s about three days old.
“Its probability for survival is unknown at this point given we do not know how much early colostrum she would have received from her mother,” a CPW press release said. “While our wildlife health staff cannot take every orphaned animal, it was determined when evaluating the circumstances of this situation that our wildlife health staff would take in this animal to use her growth and development for CPW's educational purposes.”
According to Clay, the mature cow moose that was killed during the attack was average size for the shiras subspecies common to Colorado. An average shiras cow can weigh between 800 and 900 pounds.
“When they attack, they kick and stomp, and a lot of times people get knocked down, and when they’re down they get trampled on,” he said. “If you find yourself being charged by a moose, you need to run. Get out of the way. Get behind a tree, a large rock, or boulders—anything to get something big between you and that moose to help you from being injured.”
Feature image via Colorado Parks and Wildlife.