skinner

A family of moose have been seen meandering around Aspen recently. Pictures in the paper and on social media show them rambling through traffic, hanging around at storefronts and munching the green green grass in the park.

You know what they say: Take only pictures and leave only hoof marks. I’ve seen more moose in the past couple years than in the last couple decades. They are all over the state now. I watched recently as onlookers pulled off the side of the road to snap pictures and gawk at a mommy moose and her calf. They were within about 10 yards of mommy moose. A mad mommy moose can close a 10-yard gap faster than you can say, “Everybody! Back to the choppers!”

They look docile and cute like a duck-billed platypus. But like the cute and cuddly duck-billed platypus, the cute and cuddly wild moose are dangerous as all get out. (Male platypuses have a spur on their hind foot that they use to deliver venom to you, the pain from which no pain medication can touch and it can last a long, long time.) Moose don't have venom, but agitated, 7-foot-tall, 1,500-pound moose don't need no stinking spurs to lay on the hurt.

In March 2019 a 78-year-old man, whom his daughter described as a “bad-ass Austrian,” was charged and attacked by a moose with hooves a-flailing on Independence Pass. The moose knocked Our Hero down and was stomping away but the bad-ass Austrian countered with his ski pole and managed to fend off the moose. Witnesses said that it was a miracle that the man escaped without injury. Wildlife officials had to put the moose down.

Experts say that if you are attacked by a moose that you should not fight back (unless you are a bad-ass Austrian, I guess). You are supposed to curl up into a ball and play dead. If you can get something solid like a tree or a Range Rover between you, that's preferred.

You might want to stay in the Tesla and film from there. Just saying.

Just lion around

I have yet to run into a mountain lion but they are out there and there are some recent hair-raising night photos showing a pack of the kitties roaming the streets of Aspen. They sometimes hang out in the trees in the daytime.

In 2016, a 5-year-old boy was grabbed by a mountain lion while playing in his yard in Woody Creek. His amazing mother went into spidey mode. The pumping mommy adrenaline enabled her to literally pull the boy’s head from the lion’s jaws, which she pried open with her mommy superpowers. Heroic and lucky.

Unless you are a bad-ass Austrian it might behoove you to avoid close contact as encounters with mountain lions are on the rise and you may not have your mom with you when you see one.

The Colorado Department of Wildlife estimates the lion population in Colorado to be around 3,800. They can grow upwards of 8 feet long and weigh in around 150 pounds.

They say if you see one and it’s going to be a close encounter you should make yourself look as large as possible. Don’t look away and don’t run. If it attacks, fight for your life with everything you have. Carry a ski pole or throw rocks if you have to.

For perspective, a healthy mountain lion can leap as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet.

Bear-ly making it.

And bears? They are barely in the news at all anymore.

They are just so humdrum but you don’t have to look far to see that bears are everywhere. Dangerous? Yes. Cute? Of course, but you should still stay back.

A recent video posted on social media shows a bear chasing a mountain biker full blast down a mountain trail. The bear was skipping the curves in the trail and saving valuable time as it closed on the frantic biker. But that biker must have been a bad-ass Austrian because he outpaced the bear and lived to ride another day.

Bears in Colorado can run up to 40 mph. The fastest human on earth can barely break 27 mph.

So that’s what we have up here ... moose, lions and bears. The most dangerous animal in these here hills? Humans, of course. And we are re-encroaching on previously over-encroached territory.

Steve Skinner is an animal. Reach him at moogzuki@gmail.com.