7 Signs You’re Going to be Attacked by a Moose

· Reading Time: 5 minutes

While it’s true that moose typically aren’t aggressive towards people, if provoked, they can be deadly. Unlike deer (the moose’s close cousin), moose aren’t usually afraid of humans, so they won’t run away just because you’re there. Their lack of fear makes it more tempting to approach them—to pet them, feed them, play with them, etc.

But like most other animals, moose will defend their young and their territory if they feel threatened. And even though they look slow and bored, they can run up to 30 mph, so you’re not likely to outrun a moose. If a moose attacks, they can use their hoofs and full body weight (they weigh up to 1200 pounds!) to knock you to the ground and trample you.

Here are our tips for avoiding a moose attack while you enjoy the great outdoors.

Signs of an Attack 

How do you know when it’s time to back off from a moose?

It’s important to understand that moose can get aggressive at any time of year, but there are certain seasons when they’re more likely to be aggressive. For instance, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests that moose typically become aggressive during the following seasons:

  • In late spring, early summer when a cow (a mother) feels her very young calf is in danger
  • In the fall when a breeding bull (a male) is competitive and agitated
  • In the winter when they are hungry and tired from walking in deep snow

You can also tell if a moose will become aggressive by its body language. Here are 7 signs to look for:

1. The moose stops eating and stares at you.

2. Lays back its ears and raises the hair on its hump, neck, or hips.

3. Smacks or licks its lips, and clicks its teeth.

4. Lowers its head and walks toward you.

5. Urinates.

6. Shows the whites of its eyes.

7. Whips its head back like a horse.

These are all signs that a moose may attack. But sometimes it may not even show these signs at all—they may just charge without warning!

Practice Moose Safety

Moose live in forested areas and around lakes, ponds, or streams in the Northern Hemisphere of the US. Their habitats are essentially ideal vacation spots for those who love the outdoors. So if you’re out on the trail in this area of the country, you’ll need to practice your “moose safety.”

The best way to avoid a moose attack is not to put yourself in a situation where a moose may become aggressive. In order to avoid such situations, check out these tips:

  • Watch moose from a safe distance—give them their space. If you come across one on a trail, consider changing directions or backing off. Moose are somewhat nervous creatures. If they’re approached too much or too closely by people, they can become stressed and may become aggressive.
  • According to Kristine Rines, wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game and New Hampshire’s state Moose Program Director, warns that if you’re causing the moose to change its behavior, you’re too close. She says “You should be far enough away to get behind the nearest tree before a galloping horse could get there.”
  • Don’t feed a moose. When fed, moose can get aggressive if they don’t get as much food as they expect. They may even attack those who aren’t feeding it. In some states, like Alaska, it’s a crime to feed wild animals because when their aggression becomes unsafe to the public, the animal is put down (and we don’t want that).
  • Don’t walk between a cow moose (mother) and her calf. If you do happen to walk between them, back away immediately.
  • More people die from moose vehicle collisions than from actual attacks. If a moose crosses your path while you’re driving, let it cross. If you try to move the moose, it may attack your car. Drive slower at night in moose inhabited areas so you don’t hit one (a crash could be fatal to you both).
  • Keep your dog close or on a leash. Moose often confuse dogs for wolves, a natural predator.
  • If you come across a moose, show respect. Don’t make loud noises, chase, or harass the moose.

What to do if you’re attacked

If you recognize the signs of “moose aggression” (or it just starts charging at you), there are some things you can do to keep yourself safe.

  • Back off and run. Make sure you get behind the nearest tree, fence, or building that acts as a strong barrier between you and the moose.
  • Curl up in a ball. If a moose knocks you to the ground, curl up into a ball. It may continue running, start stomping, or kicking you. Curling up will protect your head and vital organs.
  • Don’t get up until the moose moves a good distance away. If you try to get up while it’s close, it could attack again.

The best way to avoid a moose attack is by learning and taking preventative measures before you go into the outdoors. Add this to your survival tool belt. And while you’re at it, learn about how to survive these animal attacks as well:



Alaska Department of Fish and Game http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livewith.aggressivemoose

Glacier National Park Travel Guide http://www.glacier-national-park-travel-guide.com/moose-attack.html

Appalachian Mountain Club http://www.outdoors.org/publications/outdoors/2010/learnhow/responding-to-moose-encounters.cfm

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/moose.html

Moose Safety University of Alaska at Anchorage http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/upd/prevention/moosesafety.cfm

14 Responses

  • Except in the fall for bulls (rut, or mating season) the cow moose tend to be the more dangerous, in the sense that they will often attack for no reason! The one time I was attacked by a cow (outside of Anchorage, AK), there was no reason at all. I spotted her on the trail 60-70 yds away, I backed up a hill 30-40 yds to get well away from the trail she was using and stood quietly by a small group of trees (none with branches low enough to climb unfortunately). When she got even with me, down the hill on the trail, she wheeled around and charged straight up the hill at me. The steepness of the hill helped, because it took me a moment to realizes she was serious. I am always armed, I had a short bbled (Ruger SP101) .357 mag, when she was about 10 yds away, I fired into the ground between us (the ground reflects the sound) she stopped and shook her head, you could tell the noise hurt her ears. She still wouldn’t leave! She took a step towards me, and I fired again, she stopped, shook her head and it took one more shot (I was saving the last rounds for ‘the real deal’ if needed) before she finally took off. Very fortunate, and very surprising, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been, wild animals are unpredictable.

    • Hi Willowa,
      I agree–wild animals are unpredictable for sure. They terrify me, haha. You’re story is crazy! I’m glad you made it through to tell us. So, having gone through an actual moose attack, what other advice would you give to people about surviving an attack?

  • Answer to Angela: Willowa’s post already includes the best advice for repelling attacks from those with 4 legs – or 2 – always be armed. Also, notice that her (or his) story didn’t include fumbling for the Ruger at the last second; it was in hand and ready. I had an encounter on the Appalachian Trail with a black bear momma rushing to defend yearling cubs – and gnashing her teeth, a sign of extreme anger or agitation. I talked to her to identify myself as human while I hiked at a brisk pace – not a panicked run – away from them … with my Taurus .40 in my right hand (and bear spray in my left). She followed me behind a screen of bushes (never saw her) until the trail took me straight away from the young ones, but never charged. My reasoning for staying on the trail instead of bushwacking a wider circle around them was that the trail made me quieter, not panicked-sounding, and I was less likely to flounder since the trail was well-packed.

  • I was driving up a canyon in winter and a moose appeared right in from of me. I stopped, waiting for it to move out of the way, when a delivery truck driver came down the canyon, stopped, got out of his truck, and tried to "shoo" the moose off the road. I wish I had video of the terrified driver running back to his truck! Unfortunately, the now-agitated moose ran toward my vehicle, then attacked the brand new red Volkswagon Jetta, severely denting it and terrifying the two women inside!

    • John,
      That’s crazy! I can’t believe the delivery guy tried to shoo a moose. Good thing you stayed inside your vehicle (but too bad it got confused and came after you). So, after seeing this incident, what other moose safety tips would you give to those who encounter a moose?

  • I was hiking on Isle Royale when a moose charged me from out of the woods. I turned around & ran as fast as I could. The moose backed off. A short time later I came across 2 moose – a bull & a cow – eating on a swamp. The bull had an enormous rack. My adrenaline was really high!

  • When I was driving across the land bridge between the lake in Bridgton Maine. Right beside me and keeping pace with my car was a moose. To get away from the moose, I stepped on the accelerator fast speed ahead. I looked back and saw him slowing down and running the other way. He looked confused. It reminded me of the way a dog will chase a car sometimes.

    I just wanted to let people know that moose will chase cars. Stay safe everyone.

  • I was knocked over by a cow moose while walking home on a frozen lake. She came out of the woods from a small island about 100 feet away at a fast trot, and headed straight at me. I had a rifle with me, but alas, I had dropped it earlier in the deep snow and when I tried to get a bullet into the chamber to defend myself against the moose (i.e. hopefully to fire a shot near her to cause her to veer away, because I didn’t want to have to kill her), it jammed. I tried to get the snow out of the way but couldn’t. I looked up and she rammed right into me, and knocked me down. I thought at first she was going to stomp me to death, but instead she just kept on going. I picked myself up and realized my two front teeth had been knocked back at a 45 degree angle, but otherwise I seemed OK.

    It could have been much, much worse for me if she had collided with me with my head at a different angle. I might have had broken facial bones or severe concussion. (I hope she at least had a headache herself afterwards.)

    Anyway, I made it home, got my teeth more or less back the way they were before (on the advice of a doctor I called), and next day my husband and I backtracked the moose, and found that there was a bit of blood in her tracks and that she had had a calf with her. It appeared that they reunited sometime after the attack on me.

    So, I concluded that she had been previously attacked and bitten by wolves while defending her calf, and the fact that I and my dog had apparently spooked her even more while wandering around in the woods near where they had been, was the cause of her going after me – she was stressed and was defending her calf against what she perceived as another menace – namely, me.

    I should mention that my little dog, who usually followed me closely, was at the time quite a distance away as I headed home, probably because she knew the moose was there and wanted to avoid it. Too bad I didn’t pick up on that …

    I was pretty paranoid about walking on the lake after that, but I’ve lived in this remote location surrounded by wilderness and wilderness critters most of my life, so that wore off eventually. But the lesson I take from it is: always make sure the rifle is ready to go, and avoid areas with recent moose tracks, especially if there’s a cow and a calf around.

  • Very useful and good tips! Wild animals are extremely unpredictable. Good sharing of the warning signs of the Moose.

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