Tragedy struck one family in Summit County, Colorado, over Halloween weekend when wild and domesticated animals had a fatal interaction.
The owners, who asked that their name not be shared, were avid hikers and knew the area well. They were on the Masontown Trail in Frisco with their trusty dog, an 11-year-old bearded collie named Arlo, who was himself a veteran outdoorsdog.
As Colorado residents, the family knew about the local flora and fauna and always kept an eye out for some of the biggest and baddest: moose.
On Saturday, while the group was walking a familiar trail, three moose suddenly wandered across the trail in front of them, with Arlo just ahead. According to their account, when the dog noticed the animals, he didn’t bark, he didn’t go after the moose, he simply tried to get back to his family, with devastating results.
In what the owners later referred to as a “freak occurrence,” Arlo was trampled to death by one of the moose. The Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG) responded to the scene to carry the wounded dog back out, but he later died at the veterinary hospital.
“Yesterday a dog named Arlo was hiking on the Masontown trail in Frisco with his family and found himself ahead of his owners with three moose on the trail between them,” the SCRG shared. “He tried to go back to his people and one of the moose trampled him.
“Arlo was still breathing but unresponsive when we arrived. We got him out of the field quickly and his owners took him to an animal hospital. Sadly, later that evening we got word that Arlo had passed away.
“We are not interested in judgmental comments about what Arlo’s family did, didn’t do or should have done. We simply want to remind people how dangerous moose encounters can be, both to dogs and to people … RIP Arlo, and our condolences to his family.”
His owners were understandably heartbroken.
“He was a sweet dog,” his owner told WKRN-TV. “He had a real great disposition. It’s like seeing your dog or other pet get hit by a car. This was worse.
“Seeing him go the way he did — actually see it — that’s something that’s gonna be with us a while, I think.”
Moose are notorious for readily attacking people who wander into their area, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) warns people that moose also see dogs as a primal threat.
“When it comes to defending their young, cow moose will protect their calves very aggressively, especially in the presence of dogs,” CPW said. “Moose react to dogs as they would to wolves — one of their primary predators. Moose will often attack even the most gentle dog as if it were a wolf.”
Anna Debattiste with SCRG acknowledged that there is an inherent risk in hiking, and sad events like this one remind people that when they set foot in nature, the rules are different.
“So many of us hike with our dogs,” she said. “All of us on the team hike with our dogs. We know that moose can be dangerous, but something like this really brings it home and makes people pay attention to keeping themselves and their dogs safe.”
Hikers have to remain vigilant for themselves and for their dependents. For those saying the dog would have been safe if he’d been leashed, that’s not necessarily true either. Debattiste said that they’ve even had reports of moose going after leashed dogs.
“You just can’t be too careful around a moose,” she said.
Though the incident is overall a sad one, relatives of the grieving owners have reached out to express their gratitude to SCRG for the kindness they showed.
“Thank you Summit County Rescue for helping my parents get Arlo down the trail, we’re so grateful for your crew,” wrote the couple’s daughter on the SCRG’s post. “Arlo’s last day was spent on his favorite trail, with his favorite humans, and little dog brother. He died surrounded with love, the same way he spent his life.”
“Thank you so much for looking after my parents and trying everything to save Arlo,” their son chimed in. “Hike in peace my friend.”
“Thank you all for your kind words,” the owner commented. “Arlo was a very sweet boy who happened to run just ahead of us. 3 moose came out of nowhere. He tried to get back to us. We are very aware of moose while hiking. There was no warning. Hug your pups and be careful.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.