NEDERLAND, Colo. (CBS4) – The pastor attacked by a moose outside his house just days before his daughter’s memorial says his experience is another reminder about the importance to live every day to the fullest. He wants others to appreciate the time they are given in life.
“The first thing that went through my mind was ‘oh no’,” said Pastor Doug Gibney, of Calvary Chapel. “First thought was Pat, and I just lost our daughter.”
Gibney started a bible study in the late 1970s and became senior pastor of the church in 1984 that eventually formed out of that group. A former New York Police officer, he moved to Colorado to provide a better life for his family. He lives on a ranch as the caretaker and often sees wildlife come right up to his house on the property.
“I feel blessed to have it, it’s a wonderful spot,” he said. “I guess a guy couldn’t also ask for much more if you like open spaces.”
Part of his responsibilities include a daily routine checking the lake and walking the trails on the ranch. He was near one of the lakes on the property Thursday when he did not notice any animals nearby.
“All of a sudden I heard the willows snapping and the cow moose came out,” Gibney said. “Cow moose came out, ran right over me.”
The moose was with a calf, the same two animals he saw peacefully by his house just days before the attack. But he believes the mother was protecting her calf and attacked him as a defense. He says she kicked him three different times and then came back to attack him again when he tried to get up.
“I turned around to see her and she was already there,” he said. “Ran over me, spun around, came back, knocked me over again.”
While trying to get away, one of her hoofs broke three ribs and punctured a lung. His wife and dog were on the porch and saw he was on the ground. Their dog came running toward him and barked at the moose. It gave him enough time to jump into a pond next to him, he stayed in the water until the moose left the trail.
“There’s moose on the property, they have not been aggressive,” Gibney said. “There’s a difference and protecting and that’s all she was doing.”
All of this happened just 80 yards from the house. His wife had called 911 while he was still on the ground and the paramedics arrived two minutes later, taking him to a hospital in Boulder.
“It always seems like it’s a whole lot longer so I’d say it all probably took under five minutes,” he said.
There was a moment when the moose first attacked him when Gibney thought he may die. He had planned for a potential attack since he started living on the ranch, but says these encounters never play out the way you expect.
“Oh this will be good,” he said to himself at the time. “I’ll get to see my daughter before everyone else, I guess it wasn’t my time.”
But when he realized he was not meant to die on that day, he started moving around and figuring out how he could stay alive. The attack happened just two days before the memorial for his daughter, who died from cancer. In the hospital, it became his focus and he is glad that his surgeon was the same as the one who performed operations on his daughter.
“Emotionally, mentally, it was pretty heavy,” he said. “The thought of missing my daughter’s memorial was out of the question.”
As a man of faith, he does not see this as an act of God and considers himself lucky to have lived in the same spot for almost 40 years and only now experience a moose attack. He also has counseled others on this type of grief and loss as a pastor.
“We know that our God loves us and he’s good. He doesn’t just put his hand into every situation,” he said. “There are people out there that are dealing with a whole lot worse than what I’m doing.”
He still considers himself a fortunate man and plans to move forward in his life. He knows others are facing circumstances that are even more challenging in their lives. But it will take time to process the death of your own child.
“Losing a daughter is something unless someone experience’s that first hand, you can’t put yourself in that situation,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there today that are struggling a whole lot more without any real light coming into their lives.”
He still considers himself blessed and hopes others can learn from his experience. Not only the importance of keeping a safe distance from wildlife, but also to appreciate what life gives you each day.
“Our lives can be here one minute and gone next,” he said. “Start living like today may be it.”
When you see a moose, he says make sure you back up slowly and do not try to take a photo. He also says you should know the signs they are preparing to attack. A moose will put their ears back and start to lick their mouth or paw. Besides giving them space, look for a tree or car to give you a barrier.
“If you have any people you cherish, like I did my daughter, love them, every single day,” Gibney said. “It’s a whole lot better doing something positive every day like that than ‘gee, I wish I would have’ or ‘I should have.'”
LINK: Living With Moose