Moose are the largest and most majestic of the deer species on Earth. Found in North America, Europe and Asia, these massive, antlered herbivores are most often found in northern forests and subarctic areas.
Though they eat plants, are generally solitary and avoid contact with people animals this big must be treated with respect, and those huge antlers surely aren’t for show. So, are moose dangerous?
Yes, moose are quite dangerous and they are responsible for more attacks and injuries on people than any other wild animal in North America.
There is something almost serene about these massive beasts if you’re able to watch them for a safe distance.
They tiptoe almost delicately through the forest while grazing on choice plant matter. However, an enraged moose can easily thrash or stomp you to pieces.
You don’t want to get on their bad side, and in an effort to help you avoid that unhappy fate we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about moose behavior in this article.
Understanding Moose Behavior
Moose are generally solitary, excepting congregations that might occur during mating season and the bond that exists between mother and calf during the early stages of the calf’s life.
Moose are huge and have immense calorie demands, so they spend much of their time grazing on terrestrial and aquatic plants wherever they can find them. When they aren’t eating, they are usually resting unless they are avoiding predators, sleeping or looking for food.
However, the mating season, known as the rut, occurs between September and October, during which time males or bulls give up on eating completely for several weeks as they search for females and fight other males for dominance.
This cycle will repeat throughout the mating season as males try to breed with as many females as possible.
During this time, the bellowing of males and the wailing call of females can be heard and nearly a mile away, and epic clashes between competing males and their gigantic antlers may sound like an avalanche.
Moose are always unpredictable, but many attacks on humans happen during mating season or whenever humans surprise a mother with her young.
Are Moose Aggressive Toward Humans?
As a rule, no. Like most herbivores moose are entirely happy to avoid and get away from people when they can.
However, startling or surprising a moose, especially at close range can lead to aggression, as can coming anywhere near a male during mating season or surprising a female that has calves in tow.
And areas where people have closer contact with moose, and irresponsibly feed them, moose become food aggressive when denied food from humans.
This is reason number one why you never, ever want to feed wild animals, especially moose!
Have Moose Ever Attacked Humans?
Yes, all the time in fact. Worldwide, among wild animals, only hippos injure more people and in North America moose injure more people than bears, wolves and coyotes combined.
How Do Moose Attack?
Moose attack by charging and ramming, with or without the benefit of their antlers. They will also kick and stomp, and their tremendous strength combined with their long limbs and sharp hooves means this can do shocking damage on its own.
Most notably, compared to horses and other large, hoofed animals moose are surprisingly dexterous and nimble and can kick in any direction with all of their legs. You aren’t safe just because you aren’t behind them!
Keep in mind, this is no mere deer you are dealing with: An adult male moose can weigh nearly a ton, stand nearly 7 ft tall at the shoulder and the huge rack of antlers they possess can be crowned by multiple sharp tines as thick as a man’s wrist.
Suffice it to say they can inflict hideous damage when you tick them off.
What Causes Moose Aggression?
Typical causes of a moose aggression are, as mentioned, surprising a moose at close range or approaching it too closely.
Male moose are also stereotypically aggressive and unpredictable during the rut due to elevated hormones and height and stress levels.
Female moose, or cows, are ferociously protective of their young, and the quickest way to get your guts stomped out is to come between a mother moose and her calves.
Generally speaking, however, moose are content to leave you alone and rarely pursue when you run away. If you maintain a safe distance from them at all times, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Do Moose Eat People?
No. Moose are herbivores and do not eat meat.
Are Moose Territorial?
Not really. A moose will not outright attack you just because you are in its territory, but they will attack you when you invade their personal space.
The bounds of this personal space might vary greatly depending on the individual moose, so you’re only safe and sure course of action is to keep as much distance between you and them as possible.
How Strong is a Moose?
Extremely. Moose are very strong, and they need a great amount of muscle to support their bulk.
A charging moose will easily bulldoze you, and getting whacked by their antlers could see you impaled or leave you a broken mess.
Though rarely fatal, you will also rarely leave a close encounter with a moose unscathed!
What Should You Do if You See a Moose?
As with pretty much every wild animal, the very best thing you can do when you see a moose in the wild is to keep away from it, as far as you can.
If you don’t approach a moose, you’ll rarely have a problem no matter what time of year it is and no matter what the setting. Things start to go bad more often the closer you get.
What Should You Do if Attacked by a Moose?
In any case, watch out for signs of aggression and defensive displays, and though they might go off on a “hair trigger” a moose will usually escalate its agitation prior to attacking.
Lowering of the head and flattening of the ears are two major warning signs, but subtler warning signs include maintaining a strong stare and a bristling of the hair around the head and neck.
If you see this pre-charge indicator, it is time to head the other direction and quickly. Moose are usually content to let you go if you run, although they might give chase over a short distance.
But if the moose catches you or you are unable to run you need to curl up into a ball and protect yourself as best you can. Expect a tremendous, but short-lived thrashing.
Once the moose stops its attack don’t be so quick to get up until you are sure the moose has moved on. It might be waiting nearby to see if you are still a threat.
Do Moose Carry Diseases People Can Catch?
Moose can carry several deer diseases that people can catch in certain circumstances, including cryptosporidiosis, salmonella, leptospiriosis and Lyme disease.
Luckily, the very worst diseases affecting moose including chronic wasting disease and a variety of parasitic brain eating worms cannot be contracted by people, even while eating their meat.
Notably, though not a disease per se, moose organs seem to contain shockingly high levels of cadmium, particularly the kidneys and livers, and governments throughout North America and Europe strongly recommend against eating any organ meat from mature moose.
Luckily consumption of meat does not seem to contribute to excessive cadmium intake.
However, it does not take the consumption of much organ meat for those eating it to experience dangerous spikes in heavy metal levels in the body!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.