PICT Moose - CPW - Vic Schendel

CPW renews warning to expect aggressive wildlife as mothers defend their young

Moose. Courtesy CPW - Vic Schendel

An incident between a hiker with a dog off-lease and a defensive cow moose with a calf on a Teller County trail prompted Colorado Parks and Wildlife to renew its call for caution in the backcountry.

On Thursday, a woman with her dog reported a confrontation with a cow moose and its calf about 45 minutes up the popular Crags Trail, which is off Colorado Highway 67 about 3 miles 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.

“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.

“These confrontations can happen with bears, moose, elk, deer, and other wildlife and especially when dogs are involved. They view the dogs as a predator and react in defense of their young.”

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. At least two others also involved cows exhibiting defensive behavior of their nearby calves.

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 five feet away in some willows near her home. As she started running away, she fell and then felt the moose stomp on her back and head. 

“This cow moose was exhibiting classic protective behavior of its calf,” Kroening said. “If you are in the backcountry, give wildlife extra space. Especially this time of year when wildlife are raising their young. 

“Also be sure to keep dogs on leashes. Better yet, keep them at home.”

As a precaution against run-ins with moose, Kroening urged hikers to avoid thick willow habitat in riparian areas where they are likely to be found eating or resting. Their calves, born in a 3–4-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 26-28 pounds at birth, typically gain about two pounds of weight per day, reaching weights of 385-400 pounds by October.

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

Video of a newborn calf with its mother during the May 31-June 1 snow that hit Colorado’s high country.

Kroening said the best thing is to leave young wildlife alone, untouched in their natural habitat so they can grow and thrive in the wild.

“Do not approach, touch or feed wild animals,” Kroening said. “Enjoy wildlife from a safe distance. Keep your dog on a leash and on trails.

“Perhaps most important, if you find a wild animal that appears sick or injured, leave it alone. Call your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office and talk to a trained wildlife official for guidance.”