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What To Do If You Encounter Moose in the Wild

Moose are considered among the most dangerous animals in North America.

When in the rut (mating season), bull moose can be 2 tons of fast, powerful, pure, blind rage. Cows with their young can be even more dangerous. Since the moose population in Colorado is growing, encounters between them and humans are also going to increase. Here are a few tips that can help to keep you safe.

Distance is key

If you see a moose from afar, don’t move any closer. Or not much closer. Give them as wide a berth as possible. If they are munching on conifers, they probably know you are there and don’t care.

If if is looking at you, you are too close

Driving over Cameron Pass at sunset in mid summer is a great time and place to see moose. It’s also a great place to see people pulled over, getting out of their cars to take pictures of said moose. Be careful, there is a fine line between close, and too close. Rule of thumb – if it’s looking at you, you are too close.

Scan for young

Mother cows will stomp your face in without a second thought if you seem in any way threatening to her calves. If you look up and see young moose, be ready and be aware, because mom probably isn’t far off. And she may not be in a great mood.

Moose have poor eyesight

If you are close to a moose, and it seems like it knows you are there, but it’s not sure where you are, stay still. Take stock of the situation. They can hear you, and they can smell you, but because of their relatively poor eyesight, they might not have your exact location pinpointed. While you decide whether it is a close encounter or a run-for-your-life-situation, don’t move. The lack of motion may be enough to make the big creature decide that it isn’t really interested in you, after all. Or it may buy you the time to find that thicket of trees that you’ll need to save your hide.

Find cover

Moose charges are unfortunate situations. Should you find yourself in the midst of one, cover or obstacles are going to be your best friend. Moose are very fast, so you aren’t going to outrun them. They are also surprisingly maneuverable and agile. You may be able to deke them and use your best rodeo clown skills to get away from them for a bit, but while you do so, make your way to any cover available. Groves of trees, the thicker the better, are ideal. Unlike bears, they can’t climb up a tree behind you, so that’s another way to get away.

Glacier National Park has produced a great post about this issue. Here are a few things they can add to my list.

  • Back away with your palms facing the moose
  • Speak softly and reassuringly, like you would to a little child
  • If the moose charges, get behind a large tree or rock in order to separate your body from the moose. Most moose charges, like grizzly bear charges, are bluffs
  • If the moose attacks you, feign death by curling up in a little ball. Protect your head and neck with your arms. If you are wearing a backpack, your pack will protect your back

Source – Glacier National Park Travel Guide

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