Man vs. Moose: nature’s fury in northern Minnesota

Mother moose and calf

A mother moose and her calf. A Nashwauk-area trapper recently encountered a pair like this and is lucky to tell the tale. PHOTO: tuchodi, Creative Commons

Greg Clusiau’s Iron Range fishing report is usually the place you find out where the crappies are biting, but this week the Itasca County fishing guide’s weekly newspaper column instead recounted memorable mammalian news. In a March 3 item published in the Scenic Range News Forum and elsewhere, Clusiau describes Nashwauk-area trapper Donny Newman’s encounter with a moose in the woods of Itasca County.

Newman was checking trap lines with his friend’s dog Trigger, when they met a cow moose and her calf. The dog started barking and …

Ears laid back, it was “game on” and the moose was on top of Donny before he knew what happened. Knocked down, face first, into the deep snow, the assault begin.

Luckily Newman had a back-pack on, which was full of trapping bait. Almost a foot thick, packed with meat, it acted as a cushion, taking the brunt of six to seven deadly front hoof kicks. The 800 pound animal destroyed the pack and pushed Newman deep into the snow. Curled up into a fetal position, he took the blows, hoping for the best, praying the large animal would give up, thinking him dead.

It was at this time that Trigger leaped into action, attacking the moose. The young dog, who had only met Donny for the first time on this day, let his instincts take over and went after the moose.

Distracted, the cow went after the dog, who ran up and onto the road. A chase ensued, with both of them disappearing from sight. The calf followed behind.

Minutes later, Trigger returned, unscathed, with not a mark on him. He had saved Donny’s life, even though he had started the fight in the first place.

Moose are very big and obviously protective of their young. Clusiau goes on to explain that moose have been fending wolves off their young all winter, so the sight of a dog would be very threatening. Fortunately, the dog was able to distract the moose, for which he was rewarded with an order Dairy Queen chicken strips later that day.

More from Clusiau’s column:

Reflecting upon the ordeal, Donny said “Well I feel sorry for the moose because the snow is so deep. They have to use my snowshoe trails to get around up there and I still love and respect moose. The woods belongs to them and we should be careful not to get into their space and should admire them from a distance. Thankfully Trigger prevented me from becoming a welcome mat. I feel lucky to be able to limp away and trap another day.”

It bears mentioning that Newman finished his three hours of checking trap lines after being stomped by the moose.

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