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Young dog helps Nashwauk man survive moose attack

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Don Newman just went to check a trap line, in the woods east of Babbitt one morning.

By that afternoon, he was in serious pain after a dangerous moose attack – but saved by a 9-month-old pup he'd met that day.

Newman, of Nashwauk, tells the Duluth News Tribune about the encounter back on Feb. 26, in Isabella, Minnesota. As he summed up neatly: “It was a day from hell.”

Newman was about 30 yards from his truck, his dog by his side and snowshoes on his feet, when he came across the animal, he says. The dog barked causing the moose to come charging at him. So he turned to run – but only got a few steps before it had caught up. Newman fell into the deep snow and covered his head, as the moose stomped away. The moose got in six seven or seven blows, he says, before his dog Trigger baited it away.

Newman, by the way, had never met Trigger before. The News Tribune says he was borrowing the silver Lab from a friend for breeding purposes. Newman acknowledges the young pup may have sparked the confrontation. But when it came down to it, "The dog saved my butt," Newman says.

By running, Newman did what the Appalachian Mountain Club suggests a person does when attacked by a moose.

Moose are territorial, in a sense, the site says: What often prompts an attack is the animal feeling threatened by a presence. It responds by doing one of two things: Leaving the area itself, or driving the threat from the area. So if a moose approaches you, back away, the club suggests. If it charges, turn and run, and if possible get a nearby object – such as a tree – between yourself and the animal. Once the moose has driven you a distance it deems far enough away, it will back off.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes moose attacks will not usually last a long time. If it knocks you down, curl up and protect your head with your hands, the department says.

There are warning signs too, if a moose is threatened, it says:

"The long hairs on its hump are raised, ears laid back (much like a dog or cat), and it may lick its lips (if you can see this, you are way too close). A moose that sees you and walks slowly towards you is not trying to be your friend; it may be looking for a handout or warning you to keep away. All of these are dangerous situations. Back off. Look for the nearest tree, fence, building, car, or other obstruction to duck behind."

The Minnesota DNR says moose are not usually aggressive. However, if a cow feels her calf is in danger, or a bull is in a rut, that can change.

And that, Newman tells the News Tribune, is the situation he found himself in. After the moose stopped stomping on him, he sat up and noticed a calf nearby. He assumes that is why the animal attacked.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance," he says.

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