An incident between two hikers, their dogs and a defensive cow moose with a calf on a Teller County trail prompted Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to renew its call for caution in the backcountry.
On Tuesday, two hikers with three dogs reported a confrontation with a cow moose and its calf near the popular Crags Trail, which is off Colorado Highway 67 about 3 miles south of Divide. All three dogs were reportedly on-leash.
The hikers told CPW that they saw the cow moose and its calf in the first clearing about a mile into the Crags Trail. The hikers observed the moose for a bit, then tried to go around while keeping some space from the moose. The moose, however, continued to close the distance.
As the moose approached, one of the dogs began to bark. The moose came at them and trampled one of the hikers. They were able to get the moose off and tried to run away, but the moose continued to chase after them down the trail.
Eventually the moose stopped chasing them and they were able to get to their vehicles without further incident. The injured hiker was able to walk out on their own and went to the hospital to be evaluated. Fortunately, they sustained only minor injuries.
“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 understand that moose see dogs as predators and react in defense of themselves and their young.”
CPW says the moose population in the state is growing, especially in Teller County. There are currently estimated to be 3,500 moose in the state, compared to 2,250 in 2013. With more people moving into Colorado and a growing moose population, it’s becoming especially important to take precautions when recreating in the state.
After a 2022 incident on the Crags Trail, CPW posted signs warning people that there are moose in the area with tips on avoiding dangerous encounters.
There have been two other reported moose attacks on humans in Colorado this year, both in the Boulder County area – another area with growing moose and human populations.
“This cow moose was exhibiting classic protective behavior of its calf,” Kroening said. “If you are in the backcountry, give wildlife extra space. Especially 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 and will stay with their mother into the fall.
CPW produced a video illustrating how people can be safe and responsible around moose. The video is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Kroening said that in the fall, wildlife species like deer, elk and moose enter the ‘rut’ – their annual breeding period where male will become more aggressive, fighting each other for the opportunity to mate. This aggression can sometimes be turned toward people that get too close.
“Do not approach, touch or feed wild animals,” Kroening said. “Enjoy wildlife from a safe distance. Keep your dog on a leash if you see wildlife ahead of you on a trail, do not attempt to keep going. Instead, back away slowly and return the way you came.”
For more information, please visit our website to learn how to live with wildlife in moose country.