An Alaskan bull moose trampled a dog-sled musher and her canine team recently in a very scary attack in nature. The moose was apparently protecting its snow-packed trail, and lashed out at the dog team. To protect herself, the musher fired several rounds of a small-caliber handgun into the moose at close range. The moose died about an hour later after a second person came to aid the distraught dog-sled leader.
Bridgett Watkins and her husband Scotty own a dog kennel just south of Fairbanks, Alaska. She was training for her first Iditarod race with the help of a friend on a snowmobile when the encounter occurred.
According to local reports, Watkins was midway through a 52-mile training run on the Salcha River Trail System when she saw the moose about a quarter of a mile away. She stopped and let the moose run off four times before rounding the corner. However, the moose never really left the vicinity, eating some trees about 150 yards away.
Watkins said she got off the sled and approached the front of her team with handgun ready. The moose did not make any threatening movements at first; but it eventually lowered its head and charged, hurdling through the thin trees and shrubs toward Watkins. Deep snow surrounding the trail made any escape impossible, especially for the dogs tied to the lines. Watkins said she fired five times as the moose became entangled with the dogs. Six of them, which were running along with the snowmobile, managed to escape. The rest, however, were trampled by the moose.
The Alaskan bull moose would not retreat from the dog-sled team
The moose then charged the snowmobile but stopped short of the skis. Watkins and her friend hid behind the engine with small pocket knives drawn as protection. The musher also fired one final round of the gun at point-blank range into the moose, but the animal did not go down; instead, it retreated back to the dogs.
The moose proceeded to stomp the dogs for the next hour as the mushers lay helpless behind the snowmobile. Watkins called the howls “horrific” as her beloved dogs took the brunt of the abuse anytime they tried to move or escape the line.
“I have never felt so helpless in my life,” she said on Facebook. “He would not leave us alone and he even stood over top of the team refusing to retreat.”
Eventually a friend came to their rescue and took down the moose one single rifle shot. The dogs were rushed to the North Pole Veterinary Hospital. Three received emergency surgery, with one reported in critical condition after the attack. The rest are recovering at home. Friends of Watkins set up financial donations to assist with the veterinarian bills.
“Moose probably don’t know the difference between a sled dog and a wolf. Moose tend to become more aggressive as winter wears on and they become increasingly hungry and stressed. Everything is amped up this year due to the heavy snow,” Tony Hollis, Fairbanks Area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said about the attack.
“Our advice is to keep as much space as you can. These moose can be stubborn. If you push them, they’ll be aggressive. When they’re like that, you might just have to turn around.”