'They own the place': Two moose attacks reported less than two days apart in Winter Park

Bob Dowell was walking his two dogs in his Winter Park neighborhood on June 2 when they were attacked by a moose. Less than 48 hours later, another person was attacked while running nearby.
Two dogs attacked by moose in Winter Park, followed by another attack less than two days later
Posted at 10:34 PM, Jun 12, 2024

WINTER PARK, Colo. — June started with two moose attacks in less than two days in Winter Park.

Bob Dowell is originally from Littleton but has lived in Winter Park for the last four years. His two dogs, Sydney and Kosci, always remind him to take them out for walks.

“Every morning is, you know, sun's up, let's go. It's exciting," Dowell said, smiling at his dogs. “They let us know if we don't take them for walks. It's good for us, too.”

Sunday, June 2, was no different. Dowell had seen a moose and her baby outside of their home earlier in the day, but that's typical in the area.

“I thought we'll take them for a quick walk, just keep them on the leash, and we'll stay on the pavement. Because somehow, in my mind, the pavement was safer," Dowell explained. “You fall into a kind of a false sense of comfort... Just being a local doesn't mean you're immune to the realities of living here.”

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Dowell and the dogs were not far from their home when they turned a corner and saw the mother and baby roughly 30 yards away. Dowell said they immediately turned and walked in the opposite direction.

“Most I've ever seen them do is make a couple steps towards you, lunge, move, and they go back to baby. And so we turned around and went back out of sight," Dowell recalled. “Momma kept on coming. Left baby in the dust. She, she had a mission.”

Dowell tried to hide between two homes in the neighborhood, but the moose continued after his dogs.

“I must have been airborne because I remember landing — I don't remember being launched. So I don't know if she did that with her head or how she managed to do that," Dowell said. “I do remember, at that point, releasing my dogs because I thought at least they could run and escape and I can fend for myself, I thought. But momma moose continued after my babies.”

The dogs were connected on a singular leash, something Dowell said he will never do again. Kosci and Sydney had trouble running away from the moose since they were attached to each other.

"They couldn't run the same speed, and eventually, they get pinned down by the moose," Dowell said. “The moose is over my dogs, rearing up with its front hooves and just bicycling them. I don't know how else to describe it. She wasn't really kicking, but just rearing up and stomping them with her front hooves."

Stunned and not knowing what else to do, Dowell charged at the moose and rammed into it with his shoulder. Sydney was able to wiggle out of her collar and run away from the moose.

"At that point, I don't know if the moose made a few steps away, but I saw my dog [Kosci] on the ground, which I thought was critically injured because just the sounds of them crying was heart-wrenching, and she was convulsing on the ground on her back. I just scooped her up and ran," said Dowell.

The moose continued to chase Dowell as he carried Kosci away, but eventually, they hid between some pillars and a deck until the moose left them alone.

“Eventually I found my phone. The moose had torn my front hoodie pocket, and so I couldn't find my phone for a while and eventually called my son because at that point, I was afraid to even retrace my steps," Dowell explained.

His son rushed to Dowell and the dogs as Sydney located her family after running away from the attack. Dowell took the dogs to the veterinarian immediately and was shocked they only sustained cuts and bruises.

“While driving in the area, if I see someone walking their dog, I will now stop and tell them what happened and to be on guard. And you know, I would probably never do that before," Dowell said.

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Rachael Gonzales with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said moose view dogs as predators and urges individuals to keep their dogs leashed and close to their person. She also warned against wearing headphones while outside in the area.

“Unfortunately, in these last couple of events, it's just wrong place, wrong time. But that just shows that protective nature of mom and why we have to be extra vigilant when we're out recreating, especially this time of year in areas that are known for calving areas," said Gonzales. “If you see a calf, mom is probably close by. So the best thing to do is stop, take a look at your surroundings. What is the best way for me to get out of here without startling the moose?”

Gonzales said less than 48 hours after Dowell's attack, another person was attacked in Winter Park by a moose while running.

“They were unfortunately transported to the hospital with some pretty serious injuries, but they are at home recovering," said Gonzales. “Both up in these in these neighborhoods, just a couple streets apart. But when you're talking like walking distance, not very far.”

Gonzales explained that moose consider Winter Park home, since it has the habitat they love. She said the first thing to do when encountering a moose at a close distance is to try and exit the area without startling the animal.

“Get away, find something big. Maybe it's a boulder, it's a tree, or it's a car, something to put between you and that moose," said Gonzales. “You may have one or two that may have those late season calves, but now we're talking maybe a week old versus like a day old [calf]. Mom still going to be just as protective of that week old calf as a day old calf. And even if they're a couple weeks old. So, it's just best to give them space.”

Gonzales said a good rule of thumb to determine a safe distance from a moose is if taking a picture of the moose on a phone requires a zoom.

It's hard to say if moose are responsible for more attacks in the area this year, according to Gonzales, because many moose encounters are not reported to CPW.