Since late May, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have investigated several elk and moose conflicts resulting in injuries to both people and dogs, and agency officials are cautioning everyone to be extra vigilant this time of year.
Because elk, deer, moose and other wild animals are currently rearing their newborn offspring, it increases the possibility of a serious wildlife encounter. Though most wildlife will protect their young, one of the most significant concerns for human safety is the aggressive response of a large, powerful mother moose or elk in defense of their calves.
A major catalyst in serious conflicts with moose and elk include the presence of dogs or people making unwise choices when viewing wildlife.
"People need to keep their distance and be aware of their surroundings when they are in the vicinity of wildlife and their habitats," said Scott Murdoch, Wildlife Officer in the Conifer district of Jefferson County. "If you are watching an elk just standing there, but notice a change in its behavior in any way, you are too close and need to back away. Their first signs of being alerted to your presence are often them raising their ears or head and stopping what they were doing."
There have been three recent elk incidents in June out of Jefferson County and one moose attack back in May in Larimer County that have wildlife officials cautioning the public.
Just last week in Conifer, a woman was walking her dog on a leash when she unknowingly got too close to a cow elk she didn't see. The elk charged her and she was able to get out of its way, but in the process broke her knee falling off a retaining wall.
On June 7 in Evergreen, a cow elk charged at another woman walking her dog. The woman took refuge on a balcony near a fly shop, but her dog came away with a bloody nose. It is not known for certain if the dog came into contact with the cow elk. Responding wildlife officers surveyed the location and found an elk in the area that showed signs it was nursing and that the calf was likely hidden nearby.
A similar report came in the day prior, also in Evergreen.
On May 23 in the Crystal Lakes subdivision of western Larimer County, a man was attacked by a cow moose when it came out of the trees and reared up on her back legs. The cow knocked the victim down and stomped on his body before running away. The man was sent to a hospital to treat his injuries.
Wildlife officers recovered part of a placenta nearby the attack, as that cow moose had likely just given birth. There were cow and calf tracks in the area, so the mother moose was acting in defense of her newborn.
"It is so important that people keep their distance from wildlife, especially this time of the year," Murdoch said. "Being close to wildlife increases stress levels for those animals, even if they don't flee from your presence. Additionally, you put yourself into danger when you are close to wildlife"
Many birds and mammals give birth this time of the year. Now through July, newborn wildlife will be found across the landscape and it is important that when they are observed, that people do so from a distance and never try to interact with them.
Having dogs off leash often escalates run-ins with wildlife from just a sighting into what could be a dangerous situation.
CPW stresses the importance of education to prevent conflicts. For information about what to do if you encounter a wild animal, visit the CPW website.