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We were hiking in Colorado a couple of weeks ago (i.e., mid-June). One day, I took Trail A and my husband took Trail B. As he rounded a bend, he saw a moose on the trail about 50 feet away. He stopped. The moose did nothing. He continued walking towards the moose. When he got to about 30 feet from the moose, the moose ambled off the trail, and, partially screened by trees, started eating.

Question

Other than neglecting to take a picture, did my husband do anything wrong in this encounter with a moose? (That is, was he dumb?) Should he have waited at the 50 foot range (when he first saw the moose) for the moose to leave? Waved his arm? Spoken or shouted? Or is a slow-ish, confident approach good? (I would have stopped, taken a picture, and waited until the moose left.)

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Having been around moose before, I would say that is would have been better to either stop and wait for the moose to leave or swing in a wide loop around the moose. In some areas like Grand Teton National Park, it is illegal to approach closer than 25 yards and you can be given a ticket.

I have never seen moose act aggressively towards a human, but I figure that anything that outweighs me by a factor of 5-10 times has the right of way.

  • 3
    Female Moose can be very dangerous when defending their calves. – Sam Weaver Jul 1 '16 at 2:43
  • @samweaver Ha! Don't I know it... I've literally had to run for my life from angry cow moose. – ShemSeger Jul 1 '16 at 6:00
  • Used to have a fair amount of moose in northern Minnesota when I was younger. My father taught me to shoot at a young age, and any exploring I did on my own or with friends required our .45 revolver to come along with us. Never had to use it, but moose were always high on the list (with bears and wolves) as reasons to fire warning shots. I've seen a moose swim faster than most people can run, too. – USER_8675309 Jul 1 '16 at 12:45
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"Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretti nasti..."

Moose attacks are common in North America. This is largely due to population numbers (you'll see more moose than bear) as much as people's lack of understanding of the risk. People will approach them, attempt to pet them, etc.

If left alone, moose will ordinarily leave you alone. However, they can be particularly aggressive if a mother is with her young, if provoked, surprised or threatened.

If you encounter a moose in the trail:

  1. Remain calm
  2. Don't make loud noises, or throw things at the moose. Talk calmly to it as you back away
  3. Go around the moose if you can preferably uphill with lots of stuff (trees) and at least 50ft between you
  4. Don't get between mother and calf
  5. Identify handy trees to climb, or quick escape routes (uphill) — moose can run 30 mph (50 km/h), you can't
  6. Identify whether a moose is likely to charge — ears back, head down, fur on its back raised up, it urinates, or flips its head aggressively. If these happen, seriously start thinking about using what you found in the above step.

Further bits of advice can be teased out of the lengthy answers found to this question.

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I've encountered moose on several occasions. The first was when I was a boy while walking through the woods on the way to school, I was on the trail through the woods that connected to the upper part of town when I came up behind a big moose. I stopped, backed away slow, then as nonchalantly as possible turned my back to the moose and walked away. When I got around the corner, I darted up the hill through the thickest trees I could find and took a really wide berth around where the moose was.

The second time I encountered a moose, also while a boy, it charged me and my friends. We didn't even know it was there until we heard it huffing and ploughing through the snow behind us (it had a calf, and we unwittingly disturbed it with our big inner tube we were rolling down the hill). The flight response was strong with us that day.

I don't mess around with moose. In fact, I fear them somewhat more than bears for one primary reason: they are dumb. The last thing you want is a crazy swamp donkey losing it's little mind and four-hoof river dancing all over your face. Moose won't maim you and kill you like a bear will, they'll stomp you into the ground and leave you horrifically beaten and broken. No one in my neck of the woods will approach a wild animal, especially not one that stands 7 feet at the shoulder and weighs as much as a car, that's something naive tourists do.

The smart thing for your husband to do would have been to back away and observe from a distance if you wanted to take a look. The last time I had an uncomfortable encounter with a moose, I was urging my friend with the gun to fire a warning shot into its head...

What your husband did was dumb.

If you want more reasons for why it was dumb, spend some time on YouTube watching videos of aggressive moose.

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Here in Fairbanks, Alaska, moose encounters are pretty common. Your husband and the moose handled it the way most experienced people and moose around here would... cautiously but confidently. Sometimes they won't move off the trail unless you communicate your intention by getting closer. Moose will not usually become aggressive unless you do something to provoke them, especially by getting near a mother's calf.

I did hear from a local wildlife official once that if you do encounter an aggressive moose, it can be effective to get behind trees because the moose will try to go around them rather than charge you directly.

But the trees have to be large. They will charge right through small ones! One time I saw a moose run full speed through through dense trees with 1-2 inch trunks and cross the trail a few yards in front of me. She wasn't aggressive, just running for some reason that had nothing to do with me.

  • I'm a little confused by your last paragraph. If there's a large tree between me and a moose, the moose can't possibly charge me directly. There's a large tree in the way and that's a fight even a moose can't win. (Which is to say, of course I agree with you but the argument you're using is so obvious that I don't see why you'd take the time to write it down, which makes me wonder if you intended to say something else?) – David Richerby Jul 2 '16 at 13:46
  • Sorry for the weird wording... the tree has to be large. They will charge through small trees! – Nathan Jul 5 '16 at 22:08
  • Also... many typical moose habitats like taiga and tundra don't have many sufficiently large trees, which is why the rather obvious warning is important. – Nathan Jul 5 '16 at 22:18

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