Moose are calm laid back appearing creatures. However in certain scenarios they are very dangerous animals. Some people don’t realize that. Most folks are so awestruck when they come upon one in the woods that they forget to be careful. Moose are the largest member of the deer family. Their size varies depending on which sub-species we’re talking about, but mature Alaskan bull moose stand around seven feet tall at the withers and weigh around 1400 pounds.
Whenever I come upon a moose in the woods, I have a bit of an eerie feeling. The hackles come up on the back of my neck a little bit because, unlike other deer species, they don’t seem to have much fear of people.
Are moose dangerous? Although they seem like solitary, peaceful animals that aren’t aggressive, moose can be dangerous when they’re provoked. The trouble is people don’t realize they’re provoking them. Here’s a look at whether moose are dangerous to humans and what to do if you encounter one.
How Dangerous Are Moose?
Every year, moose are responsible for more attacks than any other North American wildlife species. The state of Alaska alone averages over ten moose attacks every year. In fact, even though most people would think that moose are less dangerous than bears, Alaskan moose attack humans more than all the state’s large predators which are black bears, grizzly bears, brown bears, polar bears and wolves combined. Source
Unlike other members of the deer family, unless they’re in an area with heavy hunting pressure, moose are relatively unafraid of humans. Hence, they won’t run away because you are there.
Their boldness makes people with no outdoor experience more tempted to approach, feed, or even try to pet them. Like most wild animals, moose will become aggressive when irritated and defend their territory or young calves when they feel threatened.
Although they seem bored and slow moving, moose can cover ground very quickly with those long legs when they decide to.
How fast do moose run? Moose can run up to a speed of 35 miles per hour (56.42 kph) for short distances. That means they can cover 50 yards (46 meters) in just under 3 seconds.
If you are not far enough away that you can hide behind the nearest tree trunk before an animal traveling at that speed can get to you, you are too close. It’s time to move away. If a moose attacks you, it will use its mass and power to knock you down then it will kick and stomp you with all four of its feet.
When Are the Moose Most Dangerous?
The time of year and the annual cycles of mating and raising young has some influence on when moose will exhibit more natural aggression. Knowing when these times are will help you be more vigilent in avoiding otherwise dangerous situations.
Are bull moose dangerous?
Normally, male (bull) moose are more aggressive than female moose (cows), especially during the fall mating season. This occurs in late September through early October. During the breeding season or “rut,” bull moose are competing for the right to breed cow moose. This makes them into territorial animals that are more irritable and restless. At such times, the probability of one attacking you increases.
Are cow moose dangerous?
Cow moose are more likely to be aggressive from late spring through late summer when they have young moose calves to protect.
Moose are also more likely to attack in the winter if emaciated or tired from walking in deep snow.
Another reason why a moose can become dangerous and aggressive is a case of a brain worm infection. These infections make the animal less inclined to behave in a predictable manner and thus more of a danger to unassuming humans.
What to do if you encounter a moose
Now that you know moose are dangerous in various scenarios, it’s essential to know what to do if you encounter one the next time you are in the woods.
Moose mostly live in the northern United States and Canada in forested areas around ponds, streams, or lakes where they can feed on aquatic vegetation.
Prime moose habitats are also perfect recreating spots for outdoor lovers. So, if you happen to encounter a moose, you will need to know what to do to stay safe. There are various things you can do to decrease the chances of a moose attack.
Give the moose plenty of space.
First of all, it’s a good idea to give moose plenty of space. You should never approach one for any reason. All animals have what is called a flight or fight zone that they do not want you to invade. Other members of the deer family will likely flee when you enter that buffer zone. On the other hand, a moose may flee but it may also opt for option number two. That is to charge and stomp you when you invade its space. Your best bet is to stay at a safe distance.
Moose have poor eyesight.
Use the fact that moose have poor eyesight to your advantage by minimizing any unnecessary sound or motion. One of the reasons that a moose may seem to be staring you down is that it’s trying to pinpoint your exact identity and location. They don’t see detail very well. However, they pick up on any movement that is out of the ordinary very quickly.
If you encounter a moose in the woods, stop moving long enough to take stock of your situation. Next look for the closest thing that will break up your outline such as any trees, or shrubbery. Once you decide which direction you need to go to break up your outline, quietly make your way there with as little extra motion as possible. After that you can hopefully just fade back into the forest.
Remember that if the breeze is blowing from you to the moose, it will smell you. To moose human beings are stinky potential predators.
Moose don’t like dogs.
If you’re going to be in moose habitat, it’s a good idea to leave your dog at home. However, if you can’t leave it at home, the best way to handle your dog will be to keep it close on a leash. Moose instinctively view all canines as predators. As such, they will mete out the same kind of treatment to your barking dog as they would a wolf.
Should you accidentally get between a cow moose and her calf, you are in the most dangerous place you could be at that moment. When you find yourself in close proximity to a calf moose, you need to back out of the area while creating as little disturbance as possible. If a cow moose perceives you as a potential threat to her calf, she will not hesitate to run you down and stomp you.
In urban areas, you should never feed moose. Moose that are habituated to having people feed them become a danger to all humans and endanger themselves. They tend to display more aggressive behavior when they are provided less food than they might have wanted. This kind of moose will either have to be relocated or put down. In some states, such as Alaska, feeding moose is illegal.
Moose on the highway
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are far more moose-related injuries from car collisions than actual attacks. Adult moose are large animals and will cause some serios damage if you hit one with your vehicle.
In Alaska, there are more than 800 moose collisions annually. Some of these result in fatalities to both moose and humans. Drive carefully and at a slower speed through moose country to avoid hitting one.
Also, if you come around the bend on a mountain road and find a moose standing in your path, stop and allow it to get out the way in its own good time. Sometimes if you crowd them or honk your horn, they will attack your vehicle.
How to Tell If a Moose Is About to Attack You
It’s helpful to pay attention to an animal’s body language. Before a moose charges, there are signals that it may give that show its bad intentions. Recognizing these warning signs can give a significant advantage because it is always preferable to avoid a moose attack than to survive one.
When a moose stops eating and looks at you, it is a sign that you should back away immediately. According to animal experts, any change to a moose’s behavior indicates that you have gotten too close.
As the moose prepares to attack, you might see the long hairs on its back bristle and stand on end. It will also pull its ears back and throw its head back. Chomping teeth and licking lips are also indications that the moose is losing its patience with you.
Lastly, an irritated bull moose might paw the ground or lower its head while glaring at you and urinating.
If you come across a moose displaying any of the indicated signs, back out of the situation as quickly and quietly as you possibly can. Always keep in mind that these are large, powerful, and dangerous animals that can cover the ground in between you and them almost instantly.
What to Do If a Moose Attacks You
In the rare but possible event that an encounter with a moose progresses into an attack, being aware of how to react might save your life. If you see the signs of moose aggression or it starts to charge at you, there are things you can do to increase your chance of a better outcome.
- Back off If you have a moose coming at you, the first thing should do is back off and get behind the nearest fence, large tree, or building that can offer a strong barrier between you and it.
- Run Sometimes when they come at you it’s only a bluff charge. If they see that you’re giving them ground, they may cease to feel threatened and leave you in peace.
- Curl up in a fetal position and play dead. In a case where the moose knocks you down to the ground, as a last resort you should curl up into a ball and lace your fingers behind your neck with your elbows forward over your temples. This will give some protection to your vital organs, spine and head. The moose may continue running after it knocks you down or it may start stomping and kicking you with both its front hooves and its back ones. Keep your concentration and never try fighting back.
- Don’t get up too soon After the moose gets tired of kicking and stomping on you, don’t get up before you ensure it has moved far away. If you get up when it is still close by, it might attack again, this time more aggressively.
Not many things can compare to the thrill and/or tranquility and peace of camping and hiking in the wild places of North America. This article isn’t intended to scare the reader out of the backcountry. It’s intended to make you more prepared. If you plan on camping or recreating in moose, country just be a little more aware. The cases of moose attacks on humans are rare, but they do happen every year. Do not let it happen to you.