What to Do if You Spot a Moose in the Wild

A mother moose rams a truck that got too close to her family. Snapshot from YouTube video/BowhuntingRoad
Moose on road with calves
A mother moose refuses to share the road with a truck — and ends up ramming it for 15 minutes. Snapshot from YouTube video/BowhuntingRoad

There’s something about moose-kind that leaves many of us with the impression that they are, well, kind.

Maybe it’s that wide, dopey face. Or the fact that a moose shares similar dimensions to a lovable donkey — albeit more staggering dimensions. Or maybe it’s the influence of Bullwinkle, the sweetly slow-witted moose from the 1960s cartoon.

But as Alaskans and many Canadians have painfully come to understand, a moose in the wild should be accorded a very wide berth.

There’s a reason, for example, why a family of moose brought traffic to a respectful halt when they were spotted walking on a highway in Alaska’s Denali National Park this week.


And it wasn’t just because these ungainly ungulates are mesmerizing to behold — with their massive bodies and round, bumpy heads, all awkwardly supported by stalk-like legs.

Don't mess with the moose

Most people who live around them know that a moose scorned can be hell on hooves.

Like in 2013, when a mother moose refused to share the road and ended up battering and besieging a man in his truck.

Even a lawn mower paid a steep price for disturbing a moose during dinner.

And the same week in which a mother serenely led her calves down a stretch of Alaskan road also saw a moose exact terrifying vengeance on a hunter.

Rodney Buffett got tangled up with a moose in Newfoundland after he shot the animal. Of course, when these majestic animals come under fire for no other reason than as trophy bait, we’re squarely on Team Moose.

But this moose’s wrath seemed to come literally, from beyond the grave.

According to CBC News, the moose toppled to the ground after being shot twice by the hunter.

“I thought he was dead,” Buffett told the news outlet. “I laid my gun down and turned back to my fiancée and told her to bring down my knives. When I turned around again he was up.”

And hell hath no fury like a moose shot twice.

The aggrieved animal proceeded to stomp on the hunter, kicking him hard enough in the head to leave moose prints.

Buffett had to be airlifted to the hospital, where he would recover, at least physically.

"Every time I closed my eyes I could see the moose coming after me,” Buffett said. “It's something I'll never forget."

What makes moose so grumpy?

Wild bull moose in autumn
Somewhere between 175,000 and 200,000 moose call Alaska home. Jan Miko/Shutterstock

While attacking any animal is a sure-fire way to earn its ire, many human-moose encounters are enflamed by little more than eye contact.

There are countless stories of hikers spying a moose in the distance — and suddenly the animal is charging a scary, straight line towards them.

Some suggest moose, not bears, are the most dangerous animal to stumble upon in the wild. Like bears, they’re also increasingly rubbing up against human developments — and, also like bears, have taken to trash bins to supplement their dwindling food supplies.

Surprising a bear at a dumpster is one thing. Surprising an ill-tempered bull moose that already has issues with gawking humans? You may want to dive into the nearest dumpster and play dead. (Don’t worry, moose are strict vegetarians).

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the animals are most aggressive in spring and early summer when they are protecting their calves, and in fall when males are all fired up for mating. Oh, and in winter when they’re undernourished, annoyed by heavy loads of ticks and generally crankier than usual.

Catching a pattern there? Yes, it's pretty much all-year rage.

And woe to the human who tries to feed, pet or selfie with these behemoths.

In truth, it’s hard to blame moose for their issues with us. It seems if humans aren’t encroaching on their habitat or pointing selfie sticks or rifles at them, they’re running them off the roads. In Alaska, home to somewhere between 175,000 to 200,000 moose, the animals are being killed by cars at such a rate it’s being hailed as a crisis in roadkill.

Maybe moose have a right to be angry.

And maybe it’s time we took this issue by the horns — instead of painting these animals as a cartoonish oafs in popular culture, but animals doing their best to eke out a life in a world increasingly trampled by humans.

Maybe then we might begin to understand where they’re coming from.

And, at the very least, get out of their way.