A YouTube video, embedded below, of a snowmobile chasing a moose on a trail in Grand County, Colo., prompted the Colorado Division of Wildlife to issue warnings about interacting with moose and other wildlife.
The public education campaign is primarily aimed at snowmobilers and snowmobile rental companies. Wildlife officials say they’re seeing too many videos like the YouTube offering that show people chasing and harassing moose while riding snowmobiles.
“Moose don’t behave like deer or elk,” says DOW Area Wildlife Manager Lyle Sidener. “You can’t ‘shoo’ them off a trail. Moose don’t see people as threats and they will stand their ground, or possibly attack.”
In the video, attributed to an account publicly named “dougsheri,” the snowmobile chases the moose at a high rate of speed. At one point, the animal turns around and appears to charge the camera. Other posts on YouTube and MySpace show similar encounters with moose.
Although officials say it’s unclear where some of the videos were shot, at least one of them was taken in Grand County. No one was reported to have been injured, but officials are concerned that behavior like this could lead to injuries or death of moose and snowmobilers.
Moose sightings on snowmobile trails are common this time of year because it’s easier for them to travel on packed snow rather than the deep snow found in the high country. If a snowmobiler encounters a moose on a trail, DOW officials advise the best course of action is to go around the animal and stay as far away as possible. Trying to force it off the trail could lead to an attack.
If a moose attacks, it can be a life-threatening situation. Although moose have shed their antlers by this time of year, their hooves are their primary defense and they will kick and stomp on any perceived threat. Although attacks are rare, several people in Colorado have been injured by moose, including one fatality in 2005.
The best way to avoid a moose attack is to keep your distance. But in case of an encounter, Sidener has some suggestions for backcountry travelers.
“If you see a moose put its head down and pin its ears back, it’s a sign that an attack is likely. Put a tree, large rock or other big object between yourself and the moose, and get out of there as soon as you can,” Sidener advises.
If you are attacked, DOW officials recommend standing up if you are knocked down, and fighting back. Another suggestion: if you have your dog with you, keep it in your control at all times while in the backcountry. Moose do not distinguish dogs from wolves, their primary predator in the wild, and will aggressively attack. Dogs often run to their owners for safety and that can bring an angry, thousand-pound moose into conflict with people.
The growth and spread of moose populations, an increase in the number of people enjoying Colorado’s backcountry and advances in video technology are some of the factors that may have led to the increase in moose encounters and videotaped wildlife harassment, according to Regional Manager Ron Velarde.
“We will not tolerate harassment of wildlife and we hope that education will be enough to stop it,” Velarde said. People need to understand that harassing wildlife is dangerous, unethical and against the law. If I had seen some of these incidents in person, I would have been writing tickets to those involved.”
Sidener adds, “A snowmobile can be an excellent way to see Colorado’s backcountry, but people need to take some precautions when they encounter wildlife.”
Sidener reminds anyone who encounters wildlife to view it from a distance and, “Don’t feed, don’t approach and don’t harass.” In other words, don’t do this: