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Wildlife Encounters When You Aren’t Hunting: Moose & Elk

Flickr/Tom Koerner/USFWS

Sometimes you just want to get out into nature without having to be on the hunt.

You may be hiking for a day or camping for a week. No matter what you do, you may encounter some wildlife, such as a protective mother elk or rutting bull moose.

When you do, it can be quite the shock to stumble upon an animal unexpectedly. But, don’t panic, with the following information you’ll always be prepared for a large game encounter whether you’re looking for it or not.

Give them space

The first thing to keep in mind with elk and moose is space. Give them as much as possible. This is true of all moose and elk, butmothers with calves are particularly dangerous during early summer, or bulls during the rutting season in mid-fall.

Generally, if the moose or elk seems to change its behavior, you are too close. Look out for things such as: hair standing up on the back and hips, pinned back ears, wide eyes with lots of white showing, a lowered head or tossing of the head, careful observation, and especially movement towards you.

If you see any of these signs, back away immediately. However, charges may happen regardless.

Flickr/Ryan Haggerty/USFWS

Dealing with a charge

If a moose or elk charges, you should run. Unlike bears (for which this is a terrible idea), running is your best bet for evading a charging moose or elk.

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In addition, find a tree to hide behind in order to avoid an impact with the charge. If you have time, climbing the tree is a good option, but not always feasible in the few seconds you may have. If the animal continues charging, keep adding distance. The moose or elk isn’t necessarily trying to take you out so much as drive you off. Once it feels you are a safe distance the animal should leave you alone.

Flickr/Linda Tanner
Flickr/Linda Tanner

Take cover

If the moose or elk does mange to make contact and knock you down, or if you trip/stumble and end up on the ground, cover your neck with your hands and curl into a ball. The animal may kick or stomp, but will usually leave once you are no longer a threat.

If you do end up on the ground, stay down until you are sure the animal has left the area. Even if a moose or elk thinks you are no longer a threat, it may change its mind and charge again if you stand up.

Ideally, wildlife can be appreciated from a distance and observed without incident. But when it does occur, knowing how to handle the situation can go a long way in keeping you (and the animal) safe.

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Wildlife Encounters When You Aren’t Hunting: Moose & Elk