“We’ve had an errant moose running amuck here,” says Peter Rushton of Jackson Hole’s guest services department. He is referring to a close encounter between a resort employee and a 1,000-pound ungulate earlier this month. “Over the years, we’ve seen many, many moose, but it hasn’t been an issue for the public. Yesterday’s experience was a little too interactive.”
The moose was causing a ruckus on a busy trail between the Thunder Lift and Sublet Ridge chair. The employee was attempting to protect the moose from gawkers and vice versa. “Even subtle gestures such as a man pointing out the moose to his wife with his ski pole can make a moose feel threatened,” Rushton says. Apparently the moose did not appreciate his efforts and charged the employee. His advance was slowed by deep snow and the employee managed to escape unscathed.
Being charged by Bambi’s oversized cousin may sound comical but these animals are dangerous. Attacks on humans can result in serious injury or even death. According to Adrian Villaruz, a wildlife biologist with Bridger-Teton National Forest, moose attacks greatly outnumber grizzly bear attacks in the area. “I’d take a grizzly over a moose any day,” he adds.
While resort guests often view moose in the early season placidly feeding in the gullies under the lower lifts, the aggressive moose in question has been cruising the higher reaches unusually late in the season. This behavior has inspired some locals to theorize that this is his first winter going solo without the protection and guidance of his Momma. “They get kind of disoriented and angry when their moms kick them out,” Villaruz says.
Considering the animal’s 1,000-pound bulk, 10-foot stride, and unpredictable disposition, Villaruz advises giving him as wide a berth as possible. “When they charge, they drop their ears and raise their hackles,” Villaruz describes. “If they do that you’re in trouble.”
Of course, since moose prefer the path of least resistance in the winter — i.e. packed, groomed trails — a snowboarder could easily catch a moose by surprise. If you find a moose between you and the fall line and can’t ride away, Villaruz advises, “Crawl under something where he can’t step on you.” Right — like one of those handy bomb shelters found on most cat walks.
Still, Rushton asserts that Jackson Hole visitors have nothing to fear. “If guests respect the safe parameters, no one should get hurt.” In other words, don’t try to take a photo of your buddy riding bare-back on Bullwinkle, and remember what your Momma always used to say, “It’s impolite to point.”