Moose can stand up to seven feet tall and weigh well over 1,000 pounds. When people think about animal encounters out on the trails, they may focus a bit more on the predators, but an encounter with these giant herbivores can also get a bit dicey. In fact, more people in Alaska are injured by moose than bears each year. They aren’t typically aggressive, but a wildlife agency from another state rich in these big ungulates has some tips for making sure you limit the likelihood of such aggression.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) recently released a primer ahead of summer hiking season on what to do during a moose encounter. They say that moose can become aggressive when they feel cornered or threatened, when bulls are in the midst of the rut, and when cows have young with them.
What are signs they may get aggressive? They could lower their heads, you may see hair standing up on their necks, they may lick their snouts, or you could see their ears pinned back. This could also happen if your dog gets a bit too close to them, as moose may view your dog as a predator.
So what should you do to minimize the chance of a moose acting like this? The DWR says you should always give a moose plenty of space, keep an eye on its behavior, do not approach or try to feed it, keep your canine friends on a leash and under control, and if it’s close, make your presence known and ease away by walking backwards.
If you are charged, hide behind something solid like a tree or get into a car or building, if there’s one nearby. If things get really bad and you are knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your head.
DWR Wildlife Section Chief Covy Jones says, “In my years of working with wildlife, I have dealt with bears, rattlesnakes, cougars and moose, and the only species that I’ve had turn and come back at me was a moose. People often underestimate how aggressive they can be… Like with most wildlife, if you give moose plenty of space and don’t try to get too close, it will help keep you and them safe.”
If you see a moose on the trail but it’s blocking the way, meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has some tips. You can usually wait it out because it will move away eventually. If you absolutely need to get past, make sure you keep something between yourself and the moose, like a large tree, snow berm, car, building, or fence. Never approach a moose if its only escape route is in your direction.
With this knowledge, hopefully you can keep yourself, your dog, and any moose safe, while enjoying these impressive animals from an acceptable distance.