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The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Don't Mess with a Moose
By James Hyde  

When you’re hiking and happen upon a moose, they can appear laid back and
they can even be approached and fed depending on what season it is, but
neither is ever a good idea. If it’s rutting season, approaching a bull moose is
like poking a grizzly bear with a stick.

If you come upon a moose that’s close by, leave it alone, regardless of how
docile it may appear. And then there's the issue of sex.

Bull moose (males) are most dangerous during the rutting season, much of the
fall and into the winter. Mating fatigues them as does walking in heavy snows.
They’ve been known to bed down under people’s decks or lean against
structures, exhausted. But that's not an invitation to go "pat the nice moose."

The female of the species, cows, can get very ugly when approached, especially
during the spring and summer seasons after they’ve calved or are teaching their
youngsters the ways of the wild. You’d get a little ornery too if you’d just
passed a 60-pound calf. And getting between a cow and a calf is like standing in
mid street during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Cows get very
protective of their young and have been known to take on wolf packs to save

Unfortunately, many people don’t know the charge warning signs and decide
to get as close as possible so a picture can be taken of them near a moose.
not? Moose have been known to walk up to people almost nonchalantly as if
they’re inviting interaction.

Uh, don’t be too quick to accept the perceived chumminess.

Moose will walk slowly up to a person for one of two reasons:

1. To warn you to get off their turf;
2. Because they expect you to offer up some food.

In either case, it’s not approaching to be patted. The smartest thing to do is run
until you put something big and hard between you and that moose.

The warning signs that a charge is imminent (which is distinct from meandering
in your direction) are:

1. The hair on the hump on its back is raised;
2. The ears are down and back; and
3. It starts licking its lips.

According to wildlife authorities, if you can see it licking its lips, you’re way
too close anyway.

More often than not, if you run away from a moose, it’ll probably end its
pursuit after a relatively short run. But if one does charge, do your best to run
and get behind something solid. If there’s a tree nearby, move around it and
away from the charging beast. You’re far more agile than it is, so you could
escape it that way, by continuing to encircle the tree or climbing it if possible.

If a moose charges, unless you’re really close to it, it’s usually a warning ...
bluffs to see what you’ll do. If it doesn’t get the response it want (your speedy
departure) and does charge you, it will kick out with its forelegs when it gets
close enough and can cause some serious injury doing that alone. More often, it
will knock you down and has been known to use all four hooves on anyone on
the ground.

The smartest thing to do under that scenario is to curl up in a fetal position,
protect your head with your hands and arms and remain absolutely motionless.
Do not move until the animal is well away from you or you may trigger a
second attack.

If you are attacked, seek medical attention right away. Injuries do put people
into shock, and if you get shocky, you’ll be in no shape to assess your medical
condition on your own. If the moose breaks a rib or two, you could suffer a
pneumothorax (collapsed lung), which is very serious. So get to the nearest
hospital as quickly as possible for a full examination.

For the most part, moose are twig and bark eaters and get their name from the
Algonquin Indians for precisely what they eat.

If you see a moose and have a camera, snap away, but from a safe distance. It’s
definitely a “don’t touch/don’t feed” creature.

For information on moose safety on the road, visit: Moose Driving Tips.

About the author: James H. Hyde is co-founder, editor and designer of He has served as managing editor of three magazines, two at the
same time; is a winner of the prestigious Jesse H. Neal Award for "Best In-Depth Analysis
Article of the Year"; has served as editor of "The DeskTop," a newsletter about the early
days of desktop publishing; is co-author of "The Plain English Guide to Desktop
Publishing"; has written two syndicated newspaper columns; has written for "The New
York Times"; and designed and wrote during the mid-to late 1990s,
among the top 100 most visited sites on the Web in both 1996 and 1997. Jim's designs
were featured in five Web design books and he won over 30 design and content awards.
He also wrote and designed the official Web site of the Southern Rock Band, Lynyrd
Skynyrd, as well as fan club sites for Brooke Shields, John Mellencamp, Michael Bolton
and others.
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...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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