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See any moose on your ski vacation? Here’s how to share the slopes with wildlife With a rise in animal encounters at ski resorts, here’s what experts say travelers need to do to stay safe. It was a typical day at Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort, 80 miles west of Denver—until a large moose lumbered up to the base lodge. “It was just hanging out, bedded down next to all of the skis,” says Tom Davies, a district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). When it showed no signs of returning to the safety of the woods, Davies fired a rubber bullet into its hindquarters, a protocol used to condition animals to keep away from people and cause only temporary pain. What ensued was one of the most harrowing encounters of Davies’ career. “He charged after me so fast. I ran behind a tree,” he says. “He stopped at the tree, kind of huffed at me, and then trotted off into the woods.” Of the many wildlife species in the Colorado Rockies, moose are the most unpredictable and dangerous to encounter during ski season, says Davies. Introduced in the 1970s in the northern part of the state, Colorado’s moose population has grown tremendously. It’s not uncommon to see the animals wandering through forests, meadows, and ski slopes throughout winter. ( Here’s how to survive an encounter with wildlife—from bears to bison .) With more people heading outdoors for ski recreation—a 6.6 percent increase from the 2020-2021 season to 2022-2023—there have been more accounts of animal encounters, including moose racing down the slopes and weaving in and out of lines of people at chairlifts. According to CPW, at least 18 moose attacks were reported in Colorado between 2020 and 2023. So what should you do if you encounter wildlife during your winter vacation? The general rule is that if you don’t bother the animal, the animal won’t bother you, says Davies. “The worst part of my job is putting wildlife down because people were being careless, reckless, or negligent,” he says. Even if you don’t run into a potentially harmful animal, there are things you can do to maximize safety and fun on your winter break. Here’s what you should know before hitting the slopes. Respecting wildlife habitat Colorado ski resorts operating under a land use permit from the U.S. Forest Service must follow ongoing wildlife conservation measures to ensure that various species have safe habitats in and around ski area boundaries. These measures include roping off sections within ski area boundaries and closing roads, trails, and recreation paths on public lands that are important wildlife habitats and corridors in the winter. They also establish protected winter spaces for deer and elk. This, in turn, helps conserve the mountain lion population, since deer and elk are the lions’ primary food source. ( Hunt for moose bones in the name of science at this national park .) Forest Service, wildlife biologists, and recreation managers do their best to “strike a balance” between protecting species and allowing public access and recreation, says Adam Bianchi, ranger for the U.S. Forest Service Dillon district. However, “mapping apps and other new technologies are boosting the confidence of novice backcountry travelers to venture off trail, spreading them out across the previously untrampled alpine landscapes,” says Amy Seglund, a wildlife biologist and species conservation coordinator for CPW since 2006. For example, Guanella Pass has for many years been a habitat for the white-tailed ptarmigan, the namesake for several peaks, trails, and neighborhoods in the mountain communities. But over the last two winters, the region has become increasingly popular for outdoor recreation. “It was the only study site where the radio-collared female ptarmigan left and never came back,” says Seglund. “Birds that left moved to a location where a lot less recreation was occurring.” Bianchi says that as wildlife officials and ski areas implement these mitigation measures to maintain wildlife habitat and minimize disturbances, individual recreation seekers must do the same. ( Strap on snowshoes for stellar views of this Colorado national park .) “People camping and hiking have become accustomed to the mantra of leave no trace, pack it in, and pack it out,” he says. “This carries over to winter recreation, too. Give wildlife their space, especially in winter when their resources are limited. Anytime we move them around, it’s a major impact.” What to know If it is a large, potentially dangerous animal such as a moose, do not make sudden movements. Move away slowly without taking your eyes off the animal. According to CPW, moose—especially a cow with its calf—are most likely to charge when they feel trapped or threatened. If you are on skis or a snowboard and see moose, give the animal as wide a berth as possible as you glide by. If an animal aggressively moves toward you, quickly put a large object between you, such as a tree, boulder, sign, or fence.