JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Park rangers in Jefferson County have a unique warning for visitors: please don’t feed the moose pizza.
“It was kind of one of those situations where I kind of had to do the double take like, did I really just hear what I thought I heard?” Ranger Ben Stanley told KDVR.
Stanley was on patrol Sunday in the area of Clear Creek Canyon when he stopped to ask several vehicles parked along the highway to move to a safer spot.
“When I walked up to their window they said, ‘Hey I’m really glad you’re here because there’s some people feeding a moose some pizza right over there.'” Stanley said.
He says in a nearby picnic area there were about a dozen people crowded around a young moose.
“One person was trying to pet it. I didn’t see the pizza but I had quite a few people tell me that there was somebody trying to feed this moose some pizza,” Stanley said.
According to Stanley, the moose got scared and retreated into the woods on its own without incident. However, the situation could have ended much differently.
“Moose can be extremely aggressive if they get put in the wrong situation so that was a pretty dangerous situation given the group of people,” he said.
The animals are becoming more common closer to the front range as their populations rise across the mountains. They can weigh up to 1600 pounds and run 30 miles per hour.
“They’re beautiful to look at but do it from a safe distance,” Stanley said.
Sunday’s pizza incident may have been dangerous for the moose, too.
“Obviously pizza is not part of a moose’s normal diet. That can make it extremely sick,” he said.
Feeding human food to a wild animal can also contribute to a lifetime of problems for it.
“What’s basically happening is these people giving it food, they’re training it for its entire life to expect food from people which basically sets it up for more and more conflict throughout the rest of its life,” Stanley said.
According to JCOS, incidents with animals have been on the rise this summer due to the increase in visitation.
“The past five or six months have been the busiest I’ve ever seen and I think it’s fantastic people are getting out and enjoying these things that we’re lucky enough to have in our backyard,” Stanley said.
He hopes this incident serves as a learning lesson for visitors unfamiliar with wildlife etiquette.
“From snakes all the way up to moose just give them space. All they wanna do is their animal thing,” Stanley said.
No one was issued a citation in the incident.