I want to talk about what happens when you see a moose. Now everybody knows I’ve spent a shit ton of time in the mountains. I’ve lived in the mountains basically my whole life. I grew up in Colorado Rocky Mountains. We’ve got lions and tigers and bears oh my. But really what happens when you get close to a moose moose is scary. There’s only two things I’m afraid of. And that would be mountain lions/bobcats/big cats and moose. I don’t care about Bear. I don’t care about wolves. I don’t care about coyotes but moose and cats scare the crap out of me.
So yesterday up here in Breckenridge, I was going for a snow hike (was intended to be a snow shoeing but that didn’t happen). Anyway, I digress. Hiking in the snow with my son, I am a quarter of a mile away from getting back to the trailhead and come around the corner and there are two moose. At this point I can’t quite tell. Do we have two cows? Do you have a cow and a baby? Do you have a cow and a bull? What do we have? I couldn’t quite see it, but luckily at this point my son and I had already been babbling and yelling and making all sorts of noise for miles and we did not startle them at all, which is a good thing. You don’t want to startle a moose. That’s even worse.
It turns out that I had come across a cow, which is a female, and her baby. Baby is clearly less than a year old and was probably born this spring. Mom was off in the willows, a good good distance off the trail, so closer than I’d like to be but good distance from the trail, munching down on some willow bark. But baby was like two steps off the trail. Mind you, I’ve got my son on my back. We’re hiking almost back to the trailhead. I’m tired I’m exhausted. I’m sore. There’s snow. The trail itself is packed. But if you step off the trail it’s knee deep. And then the moose are standing in a little creek. I kept talking.
I decide to tell these moose, “Hey I’m here. We’re just passing by. I’m not going to hurt you.” I just keep talking to the Moose. I Show them my hands. You know a lot of people think I’m crazy for talking to animals, but I really think they can understand us. Body language means a lot to me. And so I talk to animals when I come across them because it helps keep yourself calm. It helps to make sure you’re not startling them, and I’m pretty sure it helps them know that you’re not there to hurt them. So I keep talking to these moose. I tell them how beautiful they are. I tell them we’re not going to hurt them, we’re just passing by.
We get past Mom no problem. But baby is really close to the trail. And when we get a little bit closer to baby he decides to take a couple steps towards us. Now even a baby moose, less than a year old, weighs more than I do. If he wanted to he could easily have charged me and hurt me very badly, and mom would have come to his rescue, and mom would have probably trampled me to death. That is usually what happens when there’s a moose incident. Somebody gets trampled because they get in between a mom and baby or a dog goes after the moose. That is how most accidents happen. They’re very rare, but that’s what happens. So baby Moose takes a couple steps forward. I take two steps backwards. And then I just stand still for a minute. I show the baby moves my hands. I tell them again, “I’m not here to hurt you. I’m just passing by. We’ll take our time.” He stops, stares at me for a couple of minutes and then takes a couple steps backwards and turns around. He doesn’t totally walk off, but he at least walks farther away from the trail. While he has his back to us we manage to pass him, always keeping my eyes on him. It’s kind of hard when you’re trying to watch your step in the snow but always make sure you know where you are relative to the moose. Get around him and then keep talking to him. Don’t just stop talking because you manage to pass them. They can move a lot faster than you can.
All in all, it was scary but it was also a really wonderful experience. I’ve actually never been that close to moose. I’ve had lots of close calls with a dog and moose before.
Like I said the number one incident with moose out here in Colorado is that a dog off leash goes after a moose and the moose charges. Most don’t typically run away. Most moose will turn around and charge. They know they are a big huge contraption. So what do you do when you come across the moose? You talk to them. You should never startle an animal. You should always be making sound on the trail. You talk, you sing, you babble with your baby. Always be making some sort of noise. Yeah it’s nice to listen to the birds and stuff, but especially if you’re alone in an area with animals, make some noise. If you do come across some, gauge the distance. The farther away you are, the safer you are. Do you have a dog? Get a hold of that dog immediately. It needs to be on a leash or very well held in your hand. And I really hope that dog is well trained to not chase animals. It’s really hard to do. It’s something you need to train from puppy hood. But get a hold of that dog before it goes after them as you could be in very very big trouble if that moose does decide to come at you. Don’t try to outrun it. You will not win. It will outrun you. It will trample you. That’s just the way it happens. That being said, there are a couple things you can do. You want to protect your vital organs. So if you can get behind a big tree, get behind a big tree, because Moose can run fast. They cannot slow down fast. They very well might run themselves into that tree trying to get to you.
The other thing is kind of curl up in a ball to protect your vital organs. Put your hands behind your neck, tuck your head down, curl up in a ball. You’re still going to get injured if you get trampled, but you’re less likely to die. And yeah that’s kind of scary to think about. But it’s something you really have to know, especially if you’re out there by yourself, and especially if you’re out there with a dog.
But the biggest thing is, again, moose incidents are rare. Being well informed, making sound, talking to them, telling them, “hey we’re not here to hurt you,” it makes a huge difference. So yeah, while it was kind of a little scary to be that close to some big moose mom and baby, it was a beautiful experience. I actually got pictures of the moose. I got to see them. My son got to see moose, so that was really awesome. Hey don’t be afraid of animals. Again, just be smart.