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What Should You Do If You Meet a Moose?

What to do if you meet a moose

Moose are bashful animals that usually run away when you encounter them. But they can also be quite surly and hard to read when you encounter them on foot during hikes and backpacking trips. Males can become very aggressive during rutting season (September-October), while females tend to be very protective of young calves.

Moose have very bad eyesight and may approach to get a better look at you. Don’t make the mistake of interpreting this as friendly gesture. These are large and unpredictable animals that can do a lot of damage if they kick or gore you. Adult males average 1200 lbs in weight while females average 900 lbs. If they make contact, you’re going to feel it.

You can tell a moose is agitated if the guard hairs on its hump are raised, its ears are laid back, it lowers its head and stops eating to look at you, or urinates to mark territory. Avoid chasing a moose or getting between a mother and its calf. Unleashed dogs can also provoke an attack.

When moose charge, they often kick out with their sharp front hooves instead of bashing you with their antlers. Many charges are bluffs warning you to back off, but you can’t tell this in advance. You can’t outrun moose, which can travel up to 30 miles per hour. The best defense is to maintain a safe distance when you see one and duck behind a large tree or object if you think they’re aggressive. Backing away slowly and giving them space is usually all they need to relax and will diffuse a confrontation.

Moose live in forested areas near water sources like ponds and lakes. They’re also active in winter and forage all winter, even when food is scarce. They range widely and will make use of hiking trails to get from one area to another which can lead to human-moose encounters.

A Moose near the Wild River
A Moose near the Wild River

Moose scat is often piled up on or along trails they frequent. It consists of small, egg-shaped pellets about the size of your big toe. If it’s soft (poke it with your trekking pole tip), it means moose have passed by recently. Moose also bed down in high grass, so take care when walking through such areas because they’re easily startled. Moose beds look like larger round depressions in the grass.

It’s also common to meet moose on backcountry roads or see them along highways. If a moose is in front of your car, blocking the road, don’t drive toward it threateningly or honk at it. Just be patient. It will move along eventually. Don’t try to chase a moose that’s running along a road either, because this will only agitate it and may result in injury to the animal. Also be very careful when driving at night in forested areas to avoid hitting a moose with your car or truck. These accidents are often fatal to drivers as well as the moose.

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13 comments

  1. “Don’t try to chase a moose that’s running along a road …” Sigh. Some people must actually be that stupid, or you wouldn’t need to include that comment. Reminds me of the time I saw someone get out of her car and walk along a road to approach a brown bear sow and cubs to get a picture. She was in even more danger from the other cars whose drivers were distracted by the bears than she was in from the mama bear. Another sigh.

  2. PS: Don’t be an ignore-a-moose.

  3. It’s really sad that tick-borne diseases are severely affecting many moose populations. Some areas are losing two-thirds of the calves.

    https://news.nationalgeographic (dot) com/2015/06/150601-ghost-moose-animals-science-new-england-environment/

    What’s a Ghost Moose? How Ticks Are Killing an Iconic Animal
    As New England winters get warmer and shorter, ticks are driving a worrisome decline in a species that’s crucial to the region’s economy.

  4. I’ve only met them
    from afar
    As I watched them
    from the car

    Burma Shave

  5. never net a moose but I met a lot of buffalo in wind cave in the black hills. they just lay in the middle of the trail, and you give them a LOT of space

  6. A Møøse once bit my sister…*

    * obligatory quote for all moose references from the subtitles of the lead-in credits to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Sorry. Not really.

  7. It’s important to note that moose (unlike deer) do not have reflective eyes making them much harder to spot at night from your car.

  8. Good article and advice. Apparently moose kill more people in Alaska than bears do each year.

    We have a lot of moose in my area of Northern Ontario. We give them a wide berth and keep a tree between us and them whenever possible.

  9. REI is having a great Labor Day Sale…half off on Moose Saddles!
    https://rei.com/moose-saddles

  10. After today’s news out of Vermont, I think the moose would prefer to be left alone.

  11. A few years ago I was on a backpacking trip in September in Northern Ontario and we had a very aggressive bull moose thrash around our campsite in the middle of the night. Twice. It was grunting and snorting and pushing over trees with its antlers. That moose was definitely not happy about us camping on his lake. Hands down the scariest night that I have ever had in the backcountry.

  12. Your comments made me curious. Are moose really deaf and blind?

    After some research, I learned that moose have very good motion and low light vision because they have many more rods, which detect light and motion but not detail (as in your own peripheral vision). Moose cannot see things right in front of them because their eyes are on the side of their heads, and they have a huge schnoz! Typically moose live in forested areas where long distance sight is not needed.

    And moose are not “deaf.” Their hearing is very good, as is their sense of smell.

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