On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, Fish and Game received a report of an aggressive bull moose that charged a camper at a Harrison Lake backcountry campsite north of Sandpoint. The moose tore apart the campsite and charged at the camper and his dog. The camper hid behind a tree, but the moose did not stop charging. The camper then discharged a firearm at the moose in self-defense from close range. Fish and Game responded to the incident and located the deceased moose. The Forest Service has closed the Harrison Lake trailhead to hikers in order to prevent possible conflicts between hikers and any bears that may feed on the carcass.
This is also a good reminder to carry bear spray when hiking or backcountry camping. Bear spray isn’t just for bears and can also be used as a highly effective tool against other mammals if an unsafe wildlife encounter occurs. Be prepared when recreating outdoors and know how to use bear spray if necessary. Always give moose a wide berth when you encounter them. Moose, like any wildlife, can become agitated if they feel you are a threat.
Recreationists are reminded to never allow dogs to chase moose. Dogs can be viewed as a threat, especially if they chase a moose. The safest approach is to keep dogs on leash when recreating in moose country.
When hiking, make noise to announce your presence so you do not surprise a moose, or any wildlife that can be dangerous. Do not hike or trail run with headphones or ear buds. Most wildlife will give out some kind of warning sounds prior to an attack or aggression. Wearing headphones or ear buds eliminates your extremely valuable sense of hearing.
If you encounter a moose, watch their behavior and look for signs of agitation or stress. If a moose lays its ears back or the hair on its neck raises, that means they are stressed and could charge. If you see any of these behaviors, the best course of action is to put something between you and the moose as a barrier – like a tree or a vehicle.
There are times when a moose might be more apt to charge a person or dog:
- Never put yourself between a cow and calf moose
- During the mating rut in the fall, males can become very agitated.
- In late winter when moose are coming out of a long winter, food is scarce and their fat reserves are depleted. This is a stressful time for moose, as well as other wildlife.
For more information about the trail opening back up to hikers please contact the Sandpoint Ranger District office at (208)-263-5111.