So you want to approach wildlife? Guess again.
October 9, 2018
Last Wednesday I very decisively chose to run a certain photo on our front page, knowing I would write this column.
It was a photo of a moose in downtown Grand Lake (see below), standing before a gift shop, appearing to innocuously eat from a hanging plant. The photo wasn't the best quality, having to be blown up from its original size to grace a larger page in print. But the contents of the photo were nonetheless important.
The point that I was making in publishing the photo — for more than just being a cute photo — was for people to notice how close people got to that moose. They appeared careless, donning smiles while they had their phones and cameras glued to their hands out in front of them. They thought what they were seeing was cool, so why not snap an innocent photo.
When I first saw the image, initially shared on Facebook, I couldn't believe my eyes.
Did these people not care that their lives — and the lives of their children who were in the photo, too — could have quickly been in peril?
I love seeing wildlife, like most people. It's a big bonus of living here in Grand County. But at what point does it click in someone's brain that they can be dangerous? Especially a moose that was essentially cornered by onlookers in a populated area.
I would say that it was mainly tourists approaching the moose, but I wasn't there and the photo didn't take in the whole setting. Some people said there was law enforcement that eventually arrived to the scene and asked people to stand across the street. But the proximity that the people in the photo stood to this thousand-pound animal was harrowing. The situation could have changed in an instant and their lives could have been at risk.
I've been through Rocky Mountain National Park countless times since I've moved here and frequently I have seen people on the side of the road approaching wildlife, with cameras in hand. All I can do is shake my head in disbelief.
What really stood out to me, when the moose photo was published on our Facebook page, was one woman who commented that she was there and told a man with his children to be careful. She wrote that the man replied back with, "Mind your own business."
Should we mind our own business when the moose charges at your son or daughter?
It amazes me that getting a photo is more important for some than safeguarding their life or the lives of their loved ones. Or maybe they just assume there's no risk involved? Take a quick look on YouTube if you believe animals don't — or rarely — attack humans.
An animal attack also doesn't always necessitate actions by humans.
Take, for instance, a case last year in Boulder County when a moose attacked two women and a dog. They were minding their own business, spending some time in their backyard when a moose started attacking, violently stomping one of the women.
"… Even if you are not in the wilderness, sometimes the wildlife comes to you," Boulder County Wildlife Manager Larry Rogstad told the Boulder Daily Camera after the attack.
A wild animal's behavior can't be predicted. So, the lesson here is to keep a safe distance and be aware.
Just use your head. Stay back and stay safe. If you don't, and something bad happens, you can only blame yourself.
Bryce Martin is editor of Sky-Hi News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.