I gripped my trekking pole tighter, the animal was definitely right outside the tent, snorting. Only a thin piece of nylon separated us from a giant beast. As I lay, heart racing, in our two-man tent, I decided a moose was definitely better than a bear or a mountain lion since it wouldn’t eat us. But it could definitely trample us to death still orphaning our two young girls at home… so I elbowed my sleeping husband, deciding fear of imminent death was better shared.
I have an active imagination, especially at night, especially in the woods. Especially when a wild animal is lumbering about our campsite.
Usually we are excited to spot a moose on our trips to the high country. A drive down Long Draw Road rarely disappoints and that is where I like to see them. From the safety of my vehicle. These huge shy animals are easy to miss as they blend in perfectly with the forest shadows.
We’ve definitely been surprised by moose while dispersed camping and on hikes. We’ve had to wait around at American Lakes trailhead for a moose to mosey on before we even started.
And although I did not see the moose that visited our tent that night of our first backpacking trip, it was definitely way closer than I ever want to be.
Since the upper Poudre Canyon is prime moose country, it’s good to know how to interact with them if you find yourself in their territory.
What to do with a Moose
- Give it space: at least 50 feet if possible. Although a bull moose’s antlers look like they could do a lot of damage, it’s actually the cows that are more likely to do harm if you happen to come between mama moose and her calf. Options: Wait it out, turn around, or if you are certain you are not going to pass between a cow and her baby, keep going allowing plenty of space between you and the animal.
- Signs the moose is mad: walking towards you, ears down, head down, raised hackles on its shoulders (something you definitely don’t want to be close enough to see.) Run and run for cover e.g. behind a tree trunk.
- If a moose does charge and knock you down: curl up in a ball, stay still and cover your head with your hands. Stay in this position until you are sure the animal no longer considers you a threat.
- Do not risk bodily harm getting that selfie. Confession Time. When I moved to Colorado 13 years ago, I was awestruck by the herds of elk hanging out in downtown Estes Park. And I may have posed with one for an ill advised photo op… Definitely something I am not proud of and I openly shame people for now. But right here, right now, I admit, for one picture, I was one of those jack ass tourists. We all make mistakes. Luckily I wasn’t gored and/or on the evening news.
- Moose generally want nothing to do with you, but they are big and temperamental. When hiking, be sure to be aware of your surroundings and on the lookout. Keep dogs leashed and make plenty of noise- if you are hiking with kids, making noise is usually not an issue.
And whatever you do, never, ever give a Moose a Muffin.
What are some of your close encounters with Colorado wildlife?