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What To Do If You See A Big Moose On A Hike

A bull moose resting in a field

Are you planning a hike in an area where big moose may be present? Although it can seem intimidating to come across such a large animal, there are ways to navigate the situation safely and responsibly, we promise!

In this article, I’ll discuss what to do if you see a big moose on your next outdoor trek – from keeping your distance, observing their behavior, and learning about their habits. Moose are pretty cool, and there’s a BIG difference between how you handle a moose encounter and how you handle other wild animals. It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all type of situation!

So for all of our fellow hikers out there looking for tips on how to share the trail with these majestic creatures, read on!

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Where Are Moose Found?

A BIG MOOSE WITH his tongue out

Ah, the majestic moose. These impressive creatures are part of the deer family and can be found in the forests of North America and are a favorite sighting for hikers out on the trails.

Moose are large and imposing, standing at around 6 feet tall and weighing up to 1600 pounds. In the United States, big moose can be found in all of the northeast from New York and upward. They are also found in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan. Meanwhile, in Canada, moose are abundant throughout the country.

These gentle giants prefer forested areas and wetlands and are most active during the early morning and late afternoon. While they may occasionally be spotted in open fields, moose tend to stick to their preferred habitats.

As for temperament, big moose are usually docile creatures but may become more aggressive during the mating season in late September and early October. Mother moose are also particularly defensive during the calving season in late spring and early summer. If you decide to set out on a hike during these times, be cautious, and view moose from a safe distance.

Moose Like It Cold

The reason you won’t ever see a big moose in Florida is that moose have a low tolerance for heat. They cannot stand temperatures to be above 75 degrees F for prolonged periods.

Instead, moose prefer the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. Their long legs make them well-suited to navigate through harsh winter climates and deep snow.

The long legs of moose are also why they feel comfortable wading through wetlands and swampy habitats. They can even use their hooves as paddles to swim great distances – up to 12 miles!

Big Moose Can Be Found In Suburban Settings

Have you ever spotted a large, majestic moose in your very own neighborhood? It may sound like a wild dream, but big moose encounters with humans in urban and suburban areas are more common than you may think.

As development and human activity continue to encroach on natural habitats, big moose are forced to adapt and sometimes wander into populated areas. While most moose are hesitant to approach humans, some have been known to damage property or pose a potential threat to those in their vicinity.

So if you ever come face-to-face with a big moose in your neighborhood, remember to give them plenty of space and admire them from a safe distance.

Moose Love The Water

A moose and her calf drinking water

Water sources are another place where moose may be found. These gentle giants cannot tolerate high temperatures and do not sweat to cool off as humans do.

In fact, the fermentation process in their gut actually generates more heat!

So, what do these big moose do when they need to escape the heat? They retreat to the habitat that makes them the happiest – water. Lakes, streams, and ponds are the perfect places for these aquatic creatures to cool off and lower their body temperature.

It’s almost like they are fishing for their own version of a refreshing oasis! If you’re in moose territory, be wary around water sources, as you are more likely to encounter moose.

Are Moose Dangerous?

Big Moose may seem calm and gentle as they amble through the forest, but it’s important to remember that these animals are still wild and potentially dangerous.

During mating season, male moose can become territorial and aggressive towards humans who get too close. Similarly, mother moose are fiercely protective of their young calves and may charge if they feel threatened.

In terms of attacks, moose attacks are actually more common than bear attacks in Alaska. However, if including all of the bear and moose territory, bears still outrank big moose in the number of attacks per year.

Moose are not the only animal you might see while exploring. You can read more about what to do if you encounter a Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Lion, Wolves, Bob Cat, Alligator, Wild Boars, Snake, skunk, or Coyote! Be prepared for every encounter.

There’s not a whole lot of information out there about moose-caused fatalities. An article in the Journal of Human-Wildlife Interactions listed two fatalities due to moose trampling in Anchorage, Alaska.

To put things in perspective, here is a comparison of big moose and other animals in terms of attacks, injuries, and fatalities per year in the United States:

AnimalYearly AttacksFatalities
Mountain Lions6<1
Numbers are rounded to whole numbers, and these numbers are averages.

It’s crucial to keep an eye out for warning signs when hiking in moose habitat, like fresh tracks or droppings, and to give the animals plenty of space. While moose attacks on humans are relatively rare, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to moose safety.

Now, let’s get into the details of the temperament of a big moose and when they might be more likely to attack.

Moose Are Normally Docile

Moose are, for the most part, pretty chill animals. They’re not the aggressive beasts you might expect from their massive size. In fact, big moose are usually quite docile and will avoid humans if they can.

However, if you do happen to encounter a moose, be mindful—especially during mating season. Bull moose can become quite territorial during this time and may charge if they feel threatened. And if you come across a mother moose with a calf, it’s best to steer clear. She’ll fiercely protect her little one with everything she’s got.

So while big moose might not be naturally aggressive, it’s important to respect their boundaries and stay on their good side.

Moose Attacks Are Rare

Okay, let’s talk about moose attacks. First of all, if you’re worried about becoming a victim of a moose attack, take a deep breath and relax. Moose rarely attack humans.

In fact, statistics show that there are only about five to ten moose attacks per year in North America.

Now, don’t get me wrong, encountering a wild animal can be a frightening experience, but it’s important to note that moose are generally peaceful creatures. In most cases, if a big moose feels threatened, it will simply run away.

So, continue to enjoy the great outdoors and appreciate the wildlife that surrounds us, but always be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from any wild animals you may encounter.

A bull moose making a mating call

Moose Are More Aggressive During Mating Season

Moose have a mating season that occurs during the fall months, typically between September and November.

During this time, bull moose engage in intense physical battles with each other over the opportunity to mate with female moose. These battles can be heard from miles away as bull moose use their antlers to clash with one another. Females will then choose the strongest bull to mate with.

This aggressive behavior is not limited to bull moose; during mating season, all big moose can exhibit unpredictable behavior. It’s important to exercise caution and adhere to wildlife safety guidelines when taking a trip to moose habitats during this time.

Moose attacks are more common during mating season, so it’s crucial to be informed and prepared before venturing out into the wilderness.

Mama Moose Are Protective Of Their Calves

If you’re out and about in moose country, it’s important to keep in mind that mother moose are incredibly protective of their calves.

Moose typically have just one or two calves each year. It might not seem like much, but moose invest a lot of time and energy into raising their young. It can take up to two years for a calf to become independent from its mother, during which time she’ll fiercely guard and defend it.

If you do happen to come across a mother moose and calf, my advice would be to give them plenty of space and avoid getting too close. Big moose attacks are rare, but they’re most likely to happen when a mother feels her calf is threatened.

The prime time for running into a mother moose and calf on a hike is late spring and summer.

A Tired Moose Is A Grumpy Moose

Another reason why a moose might go out of its way to be aggressive is if they are approached when they are tired or resting. And, really, who can blame them?

A mother moose and her two calves

Moose will sometimes lay down beneath porches or against a house to rest. While this is an exciting photo opportunity, it’s much better to leave the moose alone and let it rest.

Every big moose has a different tolerance for harassment. If people are constantly approaching it to take a picture or if a dog is barking from an adjacent yard, the moose may get grumpy and lash out.

As always, give big moose a wide berth and avoid harassing them. Never throw things at a moose and be sure to give them room to cross roads and driveways.

What To Do If You See A Moose On A Hike

Seeing a big moose on a hike might not send a spike of adrenaline through your body like spotting a bear or mountain lion, but there’s still reason to be cautious.

If you see a moose on a hike, you should first assess the situation and ask yourself a few questions:

  • How far away is the moose?
  • Is the moose alone?
  • Am I blocking any escape routes?
  • Where is the closest barrier between me and the big moose?
  • How is the moose acting?

This will give you a better idea of how to proceed with a moose encounter. Let’s dive into the details of what to do if you spot a moose on a hike!

Give Moose A Wide Berth

Like most wild animals, big moose really don’t want anything to do with people. They’d much prefer to avoid an encounter with a human, and they certainly don’t go looking for people to interact with.

While hiking in moose territory, keep a sharp lookout for these gentle giants. Always give moose plenty of room and never approach a moose.

If a moose is on the trail you are hiking, go around or wait for them to move before proceeding forward. You may have to wait a few minutes or an hour, but never try to walk past a moose on the trail.

A calf resting after being birthed

Let Moose Know You Are There

Another great safety tip for hiking in moose territory is to make noise as you hike. If you’re hiking solo, bang your trekking pole on a tree, sing, or talk to the trees. Hey, whatever gets the job done! We have some great tips on how to hike alone safely here!

If you’re hiking with a partner, be sure to communicate every once in a while. The conversation will alert the big moose to your presence.

What you’re trying to do is let moose know that you are in the area. While it’s pretty hard to miss these massive creatures, if one is laying down in tall brush, you may startle it by accident.

A startled moose is a dangerous moose.

So, go ahead and listen to the beastie boys and make some noise while hiking in moose territory (just don’t actually blare music!)

Look For Cover If A Moose Looks Agitated

Moose are massive creatures. They can stand over 6 feet tall and weigh well over a thousand pounds. When these creatures get angry, things can get dangerous real quick!

Keep in mind, most of the time moose will walk away and leave you alone when they see you on a hike. However, under certain circumstances, a big moose may charge.

Look for some of the signs that a moose is agitated or ready to attack. In general, these are the same warning signs a dog might give you before it lashes out:

  • Hair raised
  • Ears pinned back
  • Licking lips
  • Walking toward you

If you see any of these warning signs, find a barrier between you and the moose. Look for a fence, a tree, a vehicle, a berm – anything that will help block you from a potential charge.

Most Moose Charges Are Bluffs, But Not All

Have you ever heard about how bears often charge people to scare them away, but that most are bluff charges? The same is true for big moose.

When a moose feels threatened, it will give some warning signs to let you know they are agitated or uncomfortable. If they continue to feel threatened, they will charge to try to intimidate you or scare you out of the area.

Most moose charges are bluffs, but it’s crucial to treat each charge as if it’s the real deal. Unlike with grizzly or black bears, you DO want to run from a moose to find cover.

Moose differ from bears because they are not carnivores. When they chase you, they are not hunting you. Instead, they are simply trying to get you to leave the area. So, it’s okay to run away from a moose, but not a bear.

When A Moose Knocks You Down, Stay Down

There’s not always going to be something around to hide behind when a moose charges. Or, if you’re anything like me, you may be clumsy and trip as you run toward a fence.

If a big moose knocks you down, remain on the ground and curl in a ball. Use your hands to protect your head and remain still.

In most instances, moose just want to make sure you are not a threat. If you remain still on the ground, they usually leave the area. Make sure not to get up until the big moose has left the area, otherwise, it may try to stomp and kick.

A pair of moose walking in a field

Dogs And Moose Don’t Get Along

Hikers love taking their four-legged pals on hikes, but it’s important to be aware of how your dog affects the wildlife around you.

Despite their massive size, moose still view dogs as potential predators. This is especially true during the calving season when mothers are protecting their newborn calves.

Always keep your dog on a leash in moose territory. If you are hiking with your dog and spot a moose, keep your dog under control and try to back away. We always recommend hiking with a non-retractable leash such as the Front Range Dog Leash. It’s 5 feet, giving you excellent control of your dog during sketchy situations.

Moose Safety Tips

The wilderness offers us so much to see, and spotting a moose can be a thrilling experience. Let’s review some of the main safety tips for moose.

  • Keep your distance: maintain a safe distance of at least 50 feet (15 meters) from a moose.
  • Be alert: watch for signs of moose activity like tracks or droppings and make noise while you hike to alert them of your presence.
  • Observe their behavior: if you notice a moose behaving aggressively or showing signs of agitation such as flattened ears or raised hair, back away slowly.
  • Give them space: if you come across a moose on the trail, give them plenty of space to pass. If possible, step off the trail and wait for them to move on before continuing your hike.
  • Don’t corner them: avoid getting between a moose and her calf or blocking their path. This can cause them to feel threatened and attack.
  • Keep your pets leashed: dogs can trigger a moose’s instinct to defend themselves and their young, so it’s important to keep pets under control and on a leash.
  • Stay calm: if a moose charges, try to remain calm and avoid running. Instead, move to the side of the trail or behind a tree and wait for the moose to pass.
  • Know when to call it a day: if the moose is showing signs of aggression or you feel unsafe, it’s better to turn around and head back than to risk an encounter.

Staying Safe Around Moose – Our Conclusion!

For many hikers, it’s a real treat to see a majestic big moose wading through the water or locking antlers with a rival moose.

Under normal circumstances, an encounter with a big moose will end peacefully. However, occasionally moose are a bit more aggressive, so it’s important to know what to do in a worst-case scenario.

To recap, if you see a moose while hiking, take these steps to stay safe:

  • Give the moose plenty of room
  • Don’t get between a mother and a calf
  • Make noise as you hike to alert moose to your presence
  • Never approach a big moose
  • Give moose an escape route
  • If a moose charges, hide behind something
  • If knocked down, curl in a ball, lay still, and protect your head until the moose leaves.

Remember that wildlife is wild, and we want to keep it that way! Even if a moose wanders into your yard, it’s never a good idea to feed it.

If you’re looking for other hiking advice or gear tips, check out our hiking blog!


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