Signs are posted at the trailheads near the water treatment plant along Fish Creek that warn about a moose in the area.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Signs are posted at the trailheads near the water treatment plant along Fish Creek that warn about a moose in the area.

Steamboat Springs woman recovering after moose attack

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— A Steamboat Springs woman is expected to be OK after apparently being attacked by a moose Sunday.

When reached on her cellphone Wednesday morning, Pam Vanatta said she still was at Yampa Valley Medical Center and would be going home Thursday. Vanatta, a Steamboat real estate agent, said she did not want to talk about the incident until she was released.

Jim Haskins, area wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said he learned about the incident Monday from one of Vanatta’s friends. It reportedly happened on a trail near the water treatment plant east of The Sanctuary subdivision.

The area is posted with signs warning that moose are frequently in the area.

Cam Boyd, Vanatta’s business partner at Prudential Steamboat Realty, said Vanatta was walking her two dogs when they started barking at a moose. That moose turned and walked into the woods but another approached Vanatta.

“She turned to run away from it, and that’s the last thing she remembers,” Boyd said.

Haskins said it was his understanding that Vanatta was hiking her dogs off leash.

Haskins said Vanatta lost consciousness but later made it back to her home in The Sanctuary. Her husband then took her to the hospital.

Vanatta suffered a cut on the back of her head that required 12 staples, Boyd said.

Haskins said doctors think the cut was consistent with having been caused by a hoof.

Boyd said Vanatta also had bruises and suffered a concussion that has kept her in the hospital.

“She’s feeling a lot better today,” Boyd said Wednesday.

Haskins said two wildlife officers went to the trail on which Vanatta was hiking, and they located an area where they think the incident might have occurred.

“There were no moose around and no way to identify a particular moose that might have been involved,” Haskins said.

If wildlife officers knew which moose was responsible, it likely would be euthanized.

Haskins said he had heard about several dogs being hurt or killed by a moose in the past in Routt County, but this was the first time he had heard of a person being harmed in his 33 years working for Parks and Wildlife.

Oftentimes, a dog is involved with human-moose encounters, Haskins said.

“The wolf is really the only natural predator a moose has, so when a moose sees a dog, it thinks wolf,” Haskins said.

This season in Grand County, there were two incidents of moose charging a woman with dogs. Both women were hospitalized but survived.

If people encounter a moose, wildlife officials advise them to enjoy the viewing opportunity from a distance and to look for signs of moose aggression, which include laid back ears and raised hairs on the hump. An aggravated moose also might lick its snout.

If a moose acts aggressively, look for an escape route and give the moose one, as well. Then slowly walk away to a safe location. If a moose charges, run as fast as possible, and put something between you and the moose such as a tree, car or large rock.

Aside from the moose incident Sunday, Haskins said there have not been any other major incidents involving wildlife. He also said the bears have been behaving themselves. The berry crop has been great this year, he said, so the bears have had an ample natural food source.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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