Eira Vs. Two Moose
For most of the month of February and a good chunk of March, two enormous young moose lived on my street. I live in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in Southcentral Alaska, where thousands of moose roam forests and towns alike. They’re magnificent, gangly creatures, and it’s thrilling to watch them walk right past my window.
A young moose hanging out on the border between my neighbor’s yard and my yard.
But they’re dangerous, too. Dogs almost get killed (or, sadly, do get killed) by moose every winter in Alaska—especially dogs who spend any amount of time outside.
When we moved to Alaska almost two years ago, our German shepherd dog, Bella, had just passed away.
“She probably would’ve died up here anyway,” said one of our new neighbors. “Dogs from the Lower 48 get killed by moose the most. They don’t know what to do with them.”
This made me relieved, in a strange way, that Bella wasn’t around to get mauled by a moose.
But now I have Eira, a six-month-old Alaskan shepherd. She’s an Alaska pup: born in Anchorage, we brought her home at eight weeks old. She’s an inside dog most of the time, but she has a dog house and a lead outside so she can go potty and romp around in the mud.
A couple weeks ago, we were about to grab Eira and load her into the truck for a family trip to the wide-open Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge. But Eira slipped away from my grasp and immediately started sprinting in excited circles around the house.
Now, she’s a puppy, so she’s still more interested in exploring the world around her than she is in paying attention to my shouts of “Eira! Come! COME!”
Eira dashes around the house.
I ran to the backyard to chase her, and what I saw made my heart race: Eira was prancing toward our two massive neighborhood moose.
They were munching on bushes at the edge of our yard. “Eira!” I screamed. “Come back!”
The mooses’ ears swiveled toward the sound of my shouting, but they kept eating.
Eira danced closer to them.
And then closer.
“EIRA!!” I yelled, but she paid zero attention.
Then she got just a few steps away from the bigger moose, and the animal decided it had had enough. It turned in Eira’s direction and charged, hooves pounding the snow.
Moose are surprisingly agile. Thankfully, Eira is even quicker. She jumped out of way just before a massive hoof batted at the snow where she’d just been. Jubilant, she trotted toward me.
“Good girl!” I said, desperate to get both of us away from the two wild creatures. She looked at me, wagged her tail, and…went back for more.
This time, the second moose stopped eating its willow bush and trotted toward Eira and the first moose. I knew that if something miraculous didn’t happen, Eira would get kicked or trampled by one of them.
Just then, my neighbor stepped outside. For whatever reason, Eira adores this neighbor. She heard the front door open and dashed away from the moose. Wagging her entire body, she pranced in circles around my neighbor, who grabbed and held her until I could come get her.
“You literally saved her life,” I told my neighbor, shaking my head at my pup. “Thank you!”
I took Eira to the truck and got her safely inside it. “You cannot chase moose!” I said, knowing that she probably didn’t understand much of what I was saying. I gave her a hug and just relished in the knowledge that she was okay.
At the Hay Flats just after Eira almost got killed by a moose.
I also started thinking about ways to prevent any further moose attacks. While you may not live in a state or country that has moose wandering the streets, you probably have wildlife in or near your backyard.
You just might not know the danger it poses to your dog.
Land Animals That Could Threaten Your Dog’s Life
In Canada and states like Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and parts of Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont, Maine, and other eastern states—and even, sometimes, Arizona!—you have to watch out for animals like bears, moose, and even wolves.
While I’ve never seen wolves near my house in Alaska, I have spotted signs of a bear. One morning, I was out walking Eira when I saw a bear track maybe fifteen feet away from my driveway. We turned right around and went inside!
The bear track that made Eira and me turn around and go back home (after snapping a photo).
Because of all the wildlife, I check on Eira often when she’s outside on her lead. One morning earlier this winter, I let her out to go potty and then came back inside to do dishes.
A few minutes later Eira started barking. I went to check on her and saw a moose right behind her dog house! I ran out there, grabbed her off the lead, and brought her inside to safety.
Even a fenced yard can’t keep moose out. In this terrifying video of a mother moose attacking a dog, you’ll see that moose can easily jump or step over a fence. (Don’t worry, the pup does survive!)
In just about every state (except Hawaii), you have the possibility of encountering neighborhood coyotes. When I lived in Southern California, a pack of coyotes lived on my college campus in the middle of the city. They even stalked and chased me to my dorm one night!
Western and southwestern states also have mountain lions (cougars) to watch out for, and Florida has panthers. Southern and southwestern states have tons of snakes. My parents live in Arizona, home to nineteen types of venomous snakes, many of which my parents have met while walking in the desert behind their house.
You don’t want your pup to meet one of these.
When we had my dog Bella, we lived in Oklahoma, which has seven venomous snakes that could kill a dog or person—five different types of rattlesnake, plus the cottonmouth and the copperhead. I was careful to keep the lawn trimmed because longer grasses invite snake activity.
It’s easier to list the states that don’t house venomous snakes: Alaska, Rhode Island, and Hawaii (which has one venomous snake, but it lives in the sea). Make sure you know which snakes inhabit your area.
Also, find out if your vet carries a vaccine that can help your dog survive a future attack. Even with a vaccine, you’ll need to seek emergency veterinary care immediately in the event of a bite. Vaccines give you more time, but they don’t grant full immunity from snake venom.
Even if you don’t have coyotes, cougars, or snakes in your area, you probably have squirrels, rats, racoons, and skunks. These can scratch your dog if they get in a tussle, which is a problem because they can carry potentially deadly diseases like leptospirosis and tularemia (which can be transferred to humans, too).
Make sure you keep an eye out for rodents and refrain from leaving food outside where it will attract wildlife. If you notice your dog chasing and hunting a small animal, take him to the vet immediately. You want to ensure that he hasn’t consumed a rodent or been scratched, because both can introduce disease into your pup.
To keep rats and other rodents out of your yard, keep it organized and clean, limiting piles of any kind. The more stacks of wood, tools, wheelbarrows, and unused sports equipment you have lying around, the more opportunity you invite for rodents to take up residence in your yard.
Water Animals To Watch Out For
There are various venomous water snakes in the United States, including Hawaii’s yellow-bellied sea snake. But if you live in Hawaii or any coastal area, you’ll probably need to worry more about sharks. In places like Australia, bull sharks pose a threat to pups taking walks along the beach with their owners.
If you’re doing a beach walk with your dog, make sure there haven’t been any recent shark sightings—or poisonous jellyfish incidents, either. If there have been, don’t let your dog anywhere near the water!
Jellyfish can wash up on the beach, too. If you notice your dog sniffing at one, get her away immediately, as jellyfish tentacles can still sting after death.
Crocodiles and alligators can also attack dogs. If you live in the American South, South Africa, Australia, or any other country or state that is home to these reptiles, keep your pup out of lakes, rivers, bayous, marshes, and streams.
Alligators and crocodiles blend easily with rocks and lakewater.
Live in Caution—Not Fear
While it may seem that there are animals lurking in wait to kill your pet, rest assured that if you exercise caution, you can avoid most dangerous situations. Keep your pet leashed in areas where wild land animals roam. If you’re visiting a beach or lake, find out ahead of time if there’ve been any recent shark, crocodile/alligator, water snake, or jellyfish sightings.
Even if you take all precautions, you can still find yourself trying to call your dog away from a moose, like I did. In the weeks since Eira’s near-death encounter, I have begun earnest “come” training so that she’s more likely to return to me instead of prance toward a pair of ornery moose.
As always, I also keep watch when she’s outside, checking the perimeter of my yard for moose or bears before I let her out.
You can’t avoid every accident or fallout with a wild creature, but you can keep a careful eye on your pup so she doesn’t get killed by a wild animal. If at any point after spending time outside or in water your dog is acting lethargic or unwell, seek veterinary care immediately.
Eira playing with my toddler in the woods near our house—after I checked for moose or bears, of course!