Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Bark n Wag 15 Minute Vet Talk

May 13, 2017



Moose have evolved defenses to keep them from becoming easy prey. Unfortunately for humans, moose sometimes perceive us as threats. When a moose feels threatened it has only two choices, either to flee or attack. Normally it will flee, and we can feel glad or apologetic, but when a moose decides to be aggressive, we can find ourselves in a dangerous situation.

Moose can become aggressive in winter when they are hungry, tired of walking in deep snow, and being harassed by dogs and people. During mating season bull moose may be aggressive towards other bulls and humans.

Each year in Alaska more people are injured by moose than by bears. In the past ten years two people have died from moose attacks in the Anchorage area. Each year there are at least 5-1O moose-related injuries in the Anchorage area alone, with many reports of charging moose in neighborhoods or on ski trails.


First and most important to avoiding confrontations is to give moose plenty of room. DO NOT APPROACH THEM. Moose, like other animals, have a distance around them, that if entered by another animal--wolf, dog, bear, or human--causes them to react. Biologists call this area "personal space" or "critical distance."


Moose calves, because of their size and lack of experience, are particularly susceptible to predation. Thus cow moose have evolved some very strong defensive behaviors. If one perceives a threat to its calf, it may attack. A cow moose can defend itself against a full-grown grizzly. If you are out walking and see a calf but not a cow, be very careful; you may have gotten between them and will want to remove yourself without drawing their attention. Calves themselves can also be dangerous. Weighing 200 to 400 pounds by their first winter, they are fully equipped to injure a predator--or a human.


Moose are likely to treat dogs just as they do wolves. If Lassie barks and runs towards a moose, the moose is likely to defend itself by lunging, kicking, and chasing the dog. A frightened dog, not having been a wolf for several thousand years, will run back to its master for protection, and you may find yourself between your pet and 1000 pounds of irate moose that seems capable of kicking in four directions at once. Because moose consider dogs to be their enemies they may go out of their way to kick at them, no matter if the dog is on a leash or in a fenced yard. If you have a dog with you, give moose extra room.

Each year packs of domestic dogs harm and sometimes kill moose. Moose calves are especially vulnerable. It is against the law to allow your pet to harass wildlife. If your dog is a habitual offender it may be destroyed by authorized personnel. Moose need to conserve energy during long Alaska winters. Being chased by dogs can lead to exhaustion, weakness, inability to move to feed, and ultimately death.


Moose use body language as a method of communication. Understanding this language will help keep both you and the moose out of harmi way. The first thing you might notice is that a moose has stopped feeding, walking, or resting, and is looking at you. Its ears will be up and it will be listening as well as looking for clues as to what you are, and what you may be up to. You can stay where you are, or increase the distance between you and the moose. The moose can move towards you, stay put, or move away. What you do influences what the moose does. You should be thinking: Does the moose have room! Does it have a safe escape route! Could it consider me a threat! If the moose has your garden fence on one side, your house on another, and you are in its only path of escape, it is going to behave differently than if it is on the edge of your lawn with only the Chugach Mountains beyond. Even then, what looks like a logical escape route to you isn't always apparent to a moose. Terrified moose have run through and over all manner of things.

If the moose puts down its head, lowers its ears, and the hair on its back and neck go up, it's time to start worrying and looking for your own escape route. The moose may begin to lick its lips and walk towards you. The moose is telling you very clearly in moose language that either you have gotten too close and are a threat, or, in urban areas where it may have been hand-fed by humans, it may think you have something for it to eat. Regardless of the reason, you are too close and in a dangerous situation. Back off and look for something to get behind.


"l've noticed that moose get angry, especially after a long winter ofharassment by people and dogs. Their anger can easily be directed at an innocent bystander. Several years ago I was working on my snow machine in the back yard, when a yearling calf walked out ofthe woods. Its teeth were clicking, its hackles were up, and its ears laid back. I chuckled as it slowly approached me and when it reached a distance ofabout 20 yards, I said, who are you trying to kid. When it got to within IO yards, I waved my hands and yelled Shoo. In an instant I found myself curled in a ball, the moose flailing over me. Fortunately, he left me with only a few bruises, but he definitely proved his point: I was on his turf and he could do what he darned pleased. I had made three mistakes in this unprovoked attack. First, I didn't realize that my dog had been pestering the moose in the woods. Second, I didn't appreciate his verbar warnings. Third, I underestimated his physical capabilities. This moose was in a bad humor and I happened to be in his way. He gave me ample opportunity to retreat, and when I didn't, I made his day.


Fortunately most moose charges are bluffs--warnings for you to get back. They should nevertheless be taken seriously. If a moose chases you, get behind something solid. You can run around a tree faster than a moose can. If a moose knocks you down, it may continue running or start stomping and kicking with all four feet. Curl up in a ball, protect your head with your arms, and lie still. Don't try to move until the moose moves a safe distance away or it may renew its attack.


Feeding moose either at your house, dumpster, or haystack is against the law. Moose quickly become habituated, and can be very aggressive when they expect to be fed. It may seem harmless to feed a hungry moose out of your car window or off your porch. However, when the same moose charges a child on the way to school, with the hope of a handout, the outcome can be tragic. A moose with a history of unprovoked attacks will be shot by enforcement officers to protect public safety. By feeding a moose, you are likely contributing to its death.


Every year people find "abandoned" moose calves. In most cases the mother has moved off for one reason or another and will return. If you find a calf, remember that its best chance for survival is to be left alone. After early July calves are weaned and capable of surviving on their own, although they remain very vulnerable to predation.


If for any reason you have to get close to a moose, ALWAYS MAlNTAlN AN ESCAPE ROUTE.