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What Should You Do If You Meet a Moose While Hiking?

What Should You 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.

Male Moose can become very aggressive during rutting season (September-October), while females tend to be very protective of young calves. For your own safety, keep your distance and keep a tree between you and the moose.

Moose have very bad eyesight and may approach to get a better look at you. Don’t make the mistake of interpreting this as a 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.

More about Moose

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  1. My scariest moment ever in the backcountry was with an aggressive bull moose during the fall rut. Myself and two others were hiking the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario and the bull moose we encountered was not pleased that we were camping on his corner of the lake. We were woken in the middle of the night by the distinctive clomp, clomp, clomp of a large moose walking in shallow water: and it was getting louder and closer. It never actually came right into our campsite, but it spent a good while grunting and crashing around the edge of it before finally wandering off. A couple hours later it returned for a repeat performance. I was never so happy for the sun to rise so we could get out of there. What a night.

  2. We spooked an old female moose that was bedded down in some tall grass next to the trail while on Isle Royale. It jumped up and trotted about 50 yards ahead of us on the trail, then turned sideways and looked at us. We just backed a way a few yards, unfortunately on this section of trail there weren’t many large trees to duck behind.

    After a few minutes it slowly made it way off the trail into the marsh. We made sure it was a good way into the water before continuing on down the trail to pass it.

    The next norming while packing up at the East Chickenbone Lake group campsite another moose walked right past the edge of camp, within 20 feet or so of a tent. It ackted like we weren’t even there.

  3. Another danger posed by moose is their scat when it is released into bodies of fresh water. It may contain tapeworm eggs too small to be filtered out by most backpacking water filters. A hiker needs to use a 0.1 micron filter if he wants to ensure safety from the effects of the eggs. If the eggs are ingested, they hatch and can burrow into your liver and you may need to install a new liver if you can find one. Aside from avoidance another solution is to shoot and eat the moose — moose roast is the best red meat you’ll eat.

  4. I had a bad moose encounter in the Swedish archipelago; I was camping and fishing for pike and was fully engaged with the fishing. on return to my campsite, it was in tatters. The tent was flattened, and gear trampled. I had an aluminum plate in those days and it bore a beautiful half-hoof print impression which identified the culprit. Moose were everywhere and often seen browsing in the shallow water but a week later the moose shooting season opened and miraculously all signs of moose disappeared overnight.

  5. Mikhail Ruslan Barson

    We have Moose everywhere in Anchorage. A day does not go by without seeing them. One time I lost my sunglasses and could not see and walked into a large bull moose. Thankfully it did nothing. I have also seen them get hit by a speeding car,break a window of the car,roll off the hood and run back into the woods. You can see them walking in downtown Anchorage,lawns, the parks,everywhere. Don’t pet them. The can kick in 4 different directions all at once. If you see a mom and a baby, get as far as possible and go behind a fat tree. This has saved my life more than once as Moose are faster than the fastest runner. Do not disturb them while they eat. Don’t collect their poop and make jewelry. Some people do this in Alaska and its stupid. They also will eat your Halloween pumpkins. If you roll an apple their way they will eat that and remember where you live. I got some great pictures of moms and calves. I took a picture of a giant black bear going down my street a couple weeks ago. The bears and Moose are in hyperphagia mode right now. Less stuff for the Moose to eat during Winter so they are busy now. If you see a Moose, you are supposed to yell “Moose” or “Moose ahead”. Some of the Moose are shaking off their racks for Winter now. Last year I saw one shake its rack off and get spooked by that and it ran fast. A neighbor took that rack home. I have no use for something like that. I know a lot of people who go Moose hunting but its not for me. I like watching them NOT getting shot.

  6. I have encountered moose more than any other animal on my outdoor adventures in northern Utah. One morning I was sitting next to my fire sipping coffee, when a young male popped out from behind my tent less than 40 feet away from me. He spent at least 45 minutes munching on young aspens, all the while making a wide arc around where I was sitting. He pretty much stayed within 40-50 feet of me the whole time. We made an agreement that he could eat, and I could enjoy my coffee, and that was that.

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