My dewlap is none of your darn business
June 25, 2015
Steamboat Springs — There's nothing funny about close encounters between moose and humans, except when the humans are floating down the Yampa River in colorful inner tubes.
How long can it be before we read an item in the police blotter reporting that officers were called to respond to a report of a bull moose that was mischievously using his antlers to flip floaters out of their tubes at Snake Island? We've already seen YouTube videos of moose playing with tire swings right here in Ski Town USA.
Just this week, Steamboat Today reader Terence Roder sent us a picture of a cow moose and its wobbly-legged calf shopping for patio furniture outside Christy Sports in Central Park Plaza. I'll pay $5 to the first person to get a picture of a moose lounging in their hammock.
It was the telephoto shot of a moose family headed straight for a small group of tubers taken by alert shutterbug Bob Kearful that really caught our attention this week.
From the deck of his home, Kearful captured an image of a cow moose, trailed by two little calves, entering the Yampa River directly opposite a tubing party. It appears in the photo that several humans are huddled together on one tube, leaving a second tube empty to distract the mean moose.
Kearful told reporter Matt Stensland, who holds down the moose and bear beat at the newspaper, that after entering the river and staring down the tubing flotilla, the mother moose showed no sign of aggression. And that's how it usually goes.
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But on a very serious note, let me say that while moose are not usually aggressive toward humans, the males are prone to belligerence during the fall rut and cow moose with calves are very protective of their young. That said, since 2013, three local women, all of whom were walking their dogs, have been attacked by temperamental moose. Moose fail to distinguish between domestic dogs and their mortal enemies — wolves. So, as much as their pooch needs to be walked, people who know they have moose for neighbors are safer leaving their wolves at home.
With tubing season about to explode into full swing this weekend, I thought it might be helpful to run down the essential list of do's and don'ts in regards to an aquatic moose encounter of the tubular variety.
• Above all else, do not attempt to take a selfie with a moose, unless you just want a record of your last moments on earth.
• Do consider purchasing camouflage swimwear for your float down the Yampa. But don't cut willow branches and attempt to camouflage your tube. Not only is SHRUBBERY part of the fragile riparian environment, it's the equivalent of guac and chips to a hungry moose.
• Don't offer a dignified moose a can of that beer from Montana called Moose Drool Ale. Moose are sensitive creatures, and they can't help it if gallons of drool stream from their chins every time they come up for air after snarfing a big wad of tasty aquatic weeds. Plus, drinking alcoholic beverages is a no-no on the Yampa.
• Do stay in the river current at all times, keep laughter to a minimum and paddle hard. The faster you pass by Tree Haus Bend, the sooner you'll exit my secret fishing hole.
• Politeness counts. When threatened by a cow moose with youngsters in tow, do not say "Excuse me for living Mrs. Bullwinkle." Every moose on the planet has grown weary of that old line, and it really hacks them off.
• If it appears a moose is intent on flipping your tubes, do lock hands and sing "Nearer My God to Thee." It could have a soothing effect.
• Finally, never ask a moose the biological purpose of its dewlap — that odd flap of skin that dangles beneath moose jaws. It's none of your business what they do, and don't do with their dewlaps.
Seriously, all of us have an obligation this summer to caution our guests that they are smack dab in the middle of the urban moose range while in Steamboat, and that the 1,500-pound animals are potentially dangerous. It's prudent to admire them from a distance, but reckless to move in close in order to capture a photo for social media.