Camper kills moose in self-defense north of Sandpoint

SANDPOINT, Idaho — Last Tuesday, a bull moose charged at a camper at the Harrison Lake backcountry camping area north of Sandpoint, before the camper shot and killed it in self-defense.

Idaho Fish and Game said the moose tore apart the campsite and charged at the camper and his dog. The camper hid behind a tree, but the moose did not stop charging.

The camper then shot at the moose in self-defense at close range. The department responded to the incident and located the deceased moose. The Forest Service has closed the lake’s trailhead to hikers, in order to prevent any possible incidents between hikers and any bears that may feed on the carcass.

The department said this serves as a good reminder to carry bear spray when hiking or backcountry camping. Bear spray can be used as a highly effective tool against other mammals if an unsafe encounter happens. They added people should be prepared when recreating outdoors and know how to use bear spray if they need to.

When it comes to moose, they said to always give them a wide berth when encountering them. Moose, like any mammal, can become agitated if they feel threatened.

The department wanted to remind recreationists to never allow dogs to chase moose because they can be seen as a threat, especially if they chase one. The safest approach is to keep dogs on a leash when recreating in moose country.

When hiking, the department said people should make noises to announce their presence so they do not surprise a moose, or any wildlife that can be dangerous.

They added people should not hike or trail run with headphones or ear buds on. Most wildlife will give out some kind of warning sounds prior to an attack, and wearing either one of those makes it hard for people to hear those warning sounds.

If anyone encounters a moose, the department said to watch their behavior and look for signs of agitation or stress. If a moose lays its ears back or the hair on its neck is raised, that means they are stressed and could charge.

If people see any of these behaviors, the best action is to put something between them and the moose as a barrier, such as a tree or a vehicle.

The department added there are times when a moose might be more apt to charge a person or dog:

  1. People should never put themselves between a cow and calf moose
  2. During the mating rut in the fall, males can become very agitated.
  3. In late winter when moose are coming out of a long winter, food is scarce and their fat reserves are depleted. This is a stressful time for moose, as well as other wildlife.

For more information about the trail opening back up to hikers, people are encouraged to contact the Sandpoint Ranger District office at (208)-263-5111.