What to Do About Aggressive Moose
Why are moose aggressive towards humans?
Moose are not normally aggressive; however, they can be very aggressive, especially in winter when they are hungry and tired of walking in deep snow; or when they are harassed by people, dogs, and traffic. Sometimes people throw snowballs at moose or approach them far too closely for safety. Dogs surprise moose in backyards, and loose dogs harass them by barking and chasing them. Moose view dogs as enemies and will sometimes go out of their way to kick at one, even if the dog is on a leash or in a fenced yard. Give moose an extremely wide berth if you have a dog with you and don't let your dog chase a moose. When moose are on a road, driveway, or trail or when they are lying under a deck or up against a house, they are often trying to rest. When people repeatedly approach them closely or chase them away, moose become stressed and agitated. Each moose has a different tolerance, but if they are harassed enough, many moose will respond aggressively.
Are there other seasons when moose tend to be aggressive?
During the fall mating season in late September and October, termed the rut, bull moose may be aggressive toward humans. In late spring and summer, cow moose with young calves are very protective and will attack humans who come too close. If you see a calf and not a cow, be very careful, because you may have walked between them which is a very dangerous place to be.
Is it okay to feed moose?
No. It is illegal and very dangerous. Moose that are fed by humans often become aggressive when they are not fed as expected. They may hastily approach the next unsuspecting person they encounter in hopes of receiving a hand out or attack if they see that the person has no food to offer. Don't feed moose and ask your neighbors not to feed them. If your neighborhood moose is fed the chances that it will charge people, especially kids, are increased many-fold. A moose with a history of unprovoked attacks will likely be shot by enforcement officers to protect public safety. Thus, by feeding a moose, people are more likely to be contributing to its death rather than benefiting the moose.
How do you know when a moose might attack?
The long hairs on its hump are raised, ears laid back (much like a dog or cat), and it may lick its lips (if you can see this, you are way too close). A moose that sees you and walks slowly towards you is not trying to be your friend; it may be looking for a handout or warning you to keep away. All of these are dangerous situations and you should back away. Look for the nearest tree, fence, building, car, or other obstruction to duck behind.
What if a moose is standing next to your house or car door?
Is there another door or a way around the moose? If not, be patient. The moose will often move away on its own. It may take half an hour or more, but it is usually worth waiting. Sometimes a loud noise or movement will startle them into moving, but moose that are used to people are usually not easily chased away. If you have to get by, try to keep a large tree, snow berm, vehicle, building, or fence between you and the moose. Don't get near a moose if its only escape route is in your direction, and always leave yourself one or more escape routes. As a last resort, a large squirt of pepper spray will often move them, or at least provide you with some protection if they charge. Frequently unsuspecting dogs are let out in their backyards when lighting is poor resulting in a surprised moose as well as a surprised dog. Turn outside lights on or scan your yard before blindly releasing your four-legged friend into the dark.
What if a moose charges?
Many charges are "bluff" charges, warning you to get back and keep your distance. However, you need to take them all seriously. Even a calf, which weighs 300 or 400 pounds by its first winter, can injure you. When a moose charges it often kicks forward with its front hooves. Unlike with bears or even dogs, it is usually a good idea to run from a moose because they won't chase you very far. Get behind something solid; you can run around a tree faster than a moose can. If it knocks you down, a moose may continue running or start stomping and kicking with all four feet. Curl up in a ball, protect your head with your hands, and hold still. Don't move or try to get up until the moose moves a safe distance away or it may renew its attack.
Are kids safe around moose?
Yes, usually. The problem is both kids and moose are somewhat unpredictable. Young kids will take their cues from adults; if you take chances, they might also. Keep kids away from moose. If a moose is hanging out at a school bus stop, ask the driver if he or she can pick up the kids one or two blocks away along the route. Establish a parent patrol to wait at the bus stop with the kids (more to control the kids than the moose). If your kids walk to school, show them another route to walk if they see a moose on their normal route. If you know a moose is in your neighborhood, kids should probably avoid walking on long paths through the woods where it is dark and there is no easy escape if a moose runs down the path.
For information on staying safe around moose, especially for young Alaskans, see Wildlife Safety.
Aggressive Moose Video
A 12-minute video on safety around urban moose, produced by ADF&G and middle school students at Mirror Lake School. Target audience is third-fifth graders.