The best way to stay safe if you encounter a moose is get far away from the moose as quickly as you can. Unlike many wild animals, moose aren’t afraid of people and you cannot intimidate them.
Trying to stand your ground can result in a potentially fatal attack. Here’s a guide on what to do if you see a moose while hiking and how to avoid a moose attack.
Are Moose Afraid of People?
The standard advice for when you encounter most wild animals is to stand your ground and try to intimidate the animal.
That only works because wild animals are naturally wary of people, and often prefer avoiding any conflict with them.
Moose are different. They are not afraid of people.
If you watch videos of moose encounters on YouTube, you’ll notice they brazenly walk up to people, cars, and even houses.
That said, moose are not naturally aggressive animals.
Yes, there are more moose attacks per year than bear attacks, but that’s just because there are more moose in the wild than there are bears. So moose encounters are more common.
The biggest danger with moose is that they are easily provoked, especially during mating season or when the cows have young calves with them.
Getting too close, standing your ground, yelling at them – any of these actions will stress a moose and make it more likely to attack.
Remember moose are big animals, with bulls standing at about 7 feet at the shoulder and weighing over 1,000 pounds. So a moose attack is nothing to joke about. With its sharp antlers, a moose can cause serious injury or death.
What To Do If You See a Moose While Hiking?
If it’s far away, keep your distance
Moose appear calm and passive when walking around and grazing. So it’s tempting to walk closer to get a better view or take a picture.
That’s a mistake.
Moose get defensive very quickly and can suddenly charge at you if you come too close.
If you come across a moose and it’s a fair distance away, do not get any closer. Watch it from a safe distance or use binoculars. If you are taking a photo, zoom in.
Turn back or change directions
If you come across a moose that is in your path, do not keep going or try to walk past it. Even if the path is wide, do not attempt to walk past a moose. It’ll perceive you as a threat for coming too close.
Instead, wait for the moose to walk away (as long as you are far enough to wait safely), turn back, or find another path.
If it’s close, stay calm and walk away
If the moose is close and has noticed you, stay calm. The last thing you want is to appear threatening; moose don’t take well to threats and intimidation.
So don’t yell at the moose, talk loudly, scream, or throw stuff at it.
Instead, talk calmly to the moose while you back away. When you are at least 50 feet away from the moose, either turn back where you came from or choose a different path.
If it attacks (or is about to) run and hide
With most wild animals, the worst thing you can do during an encounter is running away. It triggers the natural chase instinct in wild animals.
But in the case of moose, running is your best option for two reasons.
One, standing your ground is worse as the moose will take that as a threat and will attack. Two, moose often don’t chase for long so you don’t have to worry about outrunning it.
Moose are not always in attack mode. If the moose is calm, you can walk away backwards slowly and you’ll be safe.
However, if the moose seems agitated or starts walking towards you, run. Here are signs of a dangerous moose to look out for.
- Ears are laid back.
- Raised hairs on its hump.
- The moose is licking its lips.
If you notice any of these signs, turn and run as fast as you can to the biggest object you can find and hide behind it. It can be a tree, a boulder, building or a vehicle.
Having something big between you and the moose will protect you from an attack.
If you fall, curl into a ball
If the moose hits you and you fall, or you trip while running from a charging moose, immediately curl up into a ball and use your hands to protect your head.
That will protect your vital organs from the stomping and kicking of a moose.
Stay still for a few more minutes even when you hear the moose walk away. If you get up too soon, the moose can turn back for a renewed attack.
This video from Colorado Parks and Wildlife sums up everything you need to know about moose attacks and what to do if you encounter a moose while outdoors.
How to Prevent a Moose Attack?
Avoiding a moose attack is better than having to run from an actual attack. Here are some tips for avoiding moose attacks when you are hiking.
- Stick to well marked and heavily used paths and trails. You are less likely to encounter a moose on a trail.
- Dogs increase the risk of a moose attack, since moose see them as wolves, which are their predators. If you are hiking with your dog, keep it on a short leash. In areas with lots of moose, it’s best to leave your dog at home.
- If you are hiking with kids, make sure they know what to do if you encounter a moose. Teach them when to stay calm and when to run away.
- Never feed moose. In fact, it’s illegal to do so in most states. Feeding moose makes them aggressive towards you and other people since they expect more food.
- Never get between a moose and her calves. A cow protecting her young ones will be aggressive and quicker to attack. If you notice a moose calf on its own, get away as quickly as you can since the mother may be close.
- Never try to walk past a moose, force it out of the way (even if you are in a vehicle), or yell at it. The moose will get agitated and charge. Instead, wait for the moose to go or back away.
When Are Moose Most Dangerous?
Moose are usually calm and will not attack humans unless provoked. There are times of the year when they are more easily provoked and more likely to attack.
September and October is mating season and the bulls display higher levels of aggressiveness towards people.
If you are hiking during these months, you really don’t want to mess with a moose. Stay as far away as you can and run at the first sign of danger.
Also watch out for the cows during spring and summer when they are tending to their new calves. Their protective instinct makes them particularly dangerous.
Moose can also be dangerous when they are used to being fed by humans, which is why you should never feed moose.
A moose that has gotten used to human food is dangerous to everyone who encounters it as it’ll act more aggressively than usual.
Can You Outrun A Moose?
An adult moose can reach a top speed of 35 mph. A moose will easily outrun you.
Luckily, moose don’t like chasing after people. If you walk away quickly from an encounter, it’ll be all good.
If the moose attacks and you have to run, it’s important that you find a hiding place as quickly as possible.
Run in zigzag, since the weight of a moose keeps it from going around corners at speed. As soon as you get to a tree or boulder, get behind it.
As soon as the moose perceives you are no longer a threat, it’ll back off. It will not keep chasing you.
Moose are herbivores, so it doesn’t see you as a meal and will not hunt you down even when it’s hungry.