Many people think of the cartoon “Bullwinkle” when they think of a moose. Hikers in the northern U.S. and Canada who’ve actually encountered moose have an entirely different view. If you’re hiking where they both live, you’re much more likely to be attacked by a moose than a bear.
Moose aren’t shy, like deer. They’re territorial and aggressive, and their size – up to 6 ½ feet at the shoulder – and weight – as much as 1500 pounds – make them extremely dangerous. They have sharp hooves and impressive antlers. The two likeliest times of year for moose encounters are spring, when females have calves, and fall, when bull moose are looking for mates.
Never get between a female moose and her calf. If you come upon them on the trail, back up slowly and wait for them to move on; generally, they will. If a mother and calf wander into your camp, again, try to back away. Moose show aggression in several ways. They may toss or swing their heads, stamp the ground, lay their ears back, or actually charge you. Some of these charges are bluffs, and the moose will veer away at the last moment. But since most of us can’t read their minds, you need to take a charge seriously, and try to get behind a large boulder. The moose will then, hopefully, decide you’re not a threat.
In the fall, bull moose are just as deadly as females in the spring. Anything that moves is a potential rival. They’ve even charged locomotives, so if they charge you, don’t assume they’ll back off. If you can’t get away, roll yourself into a ball, cover your head, and don’t try to get up. You’ll probably get kicked, but if you don’t move at all until the moose has left the area, you’ll survive. A broken rib is better than a smashed skull. If you have time, swing your backpack over your head to protect it. Pull your hiking boots up to protect your groin if possible.
Remember that you’re in their territory, show them respect, and you’ll survive a moose encounter.