Hiking Trail Closes Due To . . . Mad Moose?

The U.S. Forest Service temporarily closed Colorado’s Crater Lake Trail and the scenic loop trail at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area to the public on July 8, 2014, due to concerns about two bull moose that were living near the heavily used hiking trails.

I first heard about this story on Friday, July 11, and I had to glance at my wall calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day. And just to confirm the story wasn’t a prank, I spent time online checking reputable news sources, and it’s legit.

Get this: After consulting with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the U.S Forest Service (USFWS) determined that “two bull moose posed a serious risk to the public, especially in light of the number of people that have come too close to the growing population of moose that now live in the area. The risky behavior continues despite numerous posted signs warning of the potential danger.”

The trails reopened on July 9 and will remain open under close monitoring by wildlife officers and forest rangers. They’ll close the trail again if necessary.

"This area is excellent habitat for moose," said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will. "It is also a very popular tourist destination for people from all over the country and world. Closing it was not an easy decision, but we cannot take the chance of someone being seriously injured by a moose."

Like any wildlife story that hits the mainstream media, people with no experience with game animals feel the need to offer their opinion. Thus, it didn’t take long for non-hunters to ask, “Why can’t they relocate the moose?”

Ummmm . . . that ain’t gonna happen.

As someone who has spent much of his life hunting and fishing in moose country (see pic below), let me offer some advice: A bull moose is typically aggressive only during the breeding season (fall), and they’ll usually run at the first sight of a human. However, if you’re hiking and spot a moose, and it doesn’t run, simply stop and observe the animal’s behavior; enjoy the moment. But don’t see how close you can sneak to the moose to get a better smartphone pic.

A cow moose protecting her calf could be aggressive, too. And if Ms. Moose runs over you as you try to get a better look at Junior, perhaps her hooves will knock some sense into your skull.

One more thing: Moose don’t like dogs. Why? Because in the eyes of a moose, a dog—any dog—is a wolf. And wolves eat moose. So unless you want to witness the circle-of-life firsthand, leave Fido at home when hiking in moose country. (Sidebar: Wildlife officials say that since late 2012, at least six people in Colorado have been injured by moose. Some of the more serious injuries resulted in extended hospitalization and a lengthy recuperation. In every one of these cases, dogs either off- or on-leash precipitated the moose attack.)

The CPW and USFWS will meet the week of July 14 to explore options for making the area safer for visitors—and for the moose. You see, if some hiker with his or her head stuck in the virtual Cloud (read: eyes on their smartphone instead of their surroundings) is stomped by a moose, game officials will have to destroy the animal.

Because you can’t outlaw stupidity, I’m not sure what more the CPW and USFWS can do, but if I hear anything I’ll be sure to report it here.


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