Man escapes moose attack with minor pains

He saw the cow moose. It saw him. There were 30 yards between them. It was a quiet standoff in the woods southeast of Ely that all too soon was violently broken after the bark of a dog.

Don Newman
Don Newman was checking traps near Isabella recently when a moose stomped on him. (Don Newman photo)

He saw the cow moose. It saw him. There were 30 yards between them. It was a quiet standoff in the woods southeast of Ely that all too soon was violently broken after the bark of a dog.

"She pinned her ears back and came running," Don Newman of Nashwauk said of his "nightmare" encounter with the moose last week while checking a trap line. Newman, wearing snowshoes, figures he got in four steps of retreat before the moose was on him.

He went down into deep snow, covered his head and neck, and hoped for the best as the moose started stomping on him. It got in six or seven blows, Newman said, before the dog distracted it. He had a backpack on with bait meat in it. It protected him from severe injuries.

He had been about 30 yards from his truck parked along a road near Isabella.

"I thought I had her beat and would get to the truck," he said. "She was on me so fast."


He doesn't blame the moose. "I was in its space," he said.

As he sat dazed and seemingly only slightly injured, he noticed a moose calf.

While moose attacks are extremely rare in Minnesota, Newman said he doubled his odds the morning of Feb. 26 by having a dog with him, and by encountering a mother moose with her calf.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance," he said. "We just happened to meet face to face."

He figures the moose has been fending off wolves all winter and didn't discern that the dog, Trigger, was little threat. And moose are very protective of their young, he said. "That's why she got aggressive."

Newman didn't know the dog well. He'd just met him that day. He was borrowing the 9-month-old silver Lab from Chad Pardy, a friend and neighbor who lives down the road north of Nashwauk. Newman had a dog in heat and was using Trigger for breeding.

Pardy said he couldn't believe the story when Newman called and told it.

"This was the first time I got to learn some instincts about him," Pardy said of his dog's actions that day.


Newman said Trigger can be both blamed and feted. The dog started the charge by barking but got the moose away from him by continuing to bait the animal.

"The dog saved my butt," he said. He forgives it for setting the moose off.

Tom Rusch, a wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Tower, said he's heard a few stories of hunters being chased and escaping a bull during rut. Actual physical contact is something else, he said.

"I would call it rare," Rusch said.

He said he's sure Newman is no stranger to the proclivities of moose as he plies the trap lines around Isabella.

"They use those defense mechanisms on wolves all the time," Rusch said.

"People think it's crazy," Newman said of reaction to his story. "They say, 'You got stomped by what?' "

His story trumps anything he's previously encountered in the outdoors.


He got home that afternoon and took a hot shower. "That's when the pain set in."

He had some swelling in his neck and shoulder, probably some strained ligaments. His hip is sore. But he's feeling good more than a week later.

Because of the adrenaline and cold that day, Newman hadn't felt any immediate pain. He went on checking his traps for two hours and then had to dig his truck out of the snow.

"It was a day from hell," he said.

It's also one of those breathless outdoor adventure stories you'd find in musty pulp anthologies tucked away on a cabin shelf. A man and a dog -- and trouble in the north woods.

The moose probably tripped Newman up when it stepped on the back of a snowshoe. Its frame is now bent and he plans to mount it on a wall as a reminder of his bizarre brush with nature.

"It's one in a million," he said.


Trigger, a silver Lab owned by Chad Pardy of Nashwauk, distracted a moose that attacked Don Newman of Nashwauk. (Submitted photo)

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