The Colorado Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service describe the moose as one of Colorado’s most-charismatic animals and have designated July 31 as Grand Mesa Moose Day. Fun, games, activities, and moose viewing information, presentations about moose biology and moose history among other activities.

This is the fun way to learn about one of the west’s most dangerous mammals. Last week I wrote on what to do if you run into a bear while hiking or in your campground, but even a bear will run from a moose.

You have no doubt heard how dangerous a moose cow can be when protecting her calf and a bull during breeding season. And you probably wouldn’t approach a moose–any moose–with an air of nonchalance. But the occasion could arise when you inadvertently run into one on a trail or in your campsite. And moose are territorial, unpredictable,  and dangerous at all times, so if you have a close encounter a moose, wildlife experts suggest the following:

  • Move slowly, being careful not to make any quick or sudden movements.
  • Never get between a cow and its calf.
  • You are in potential danger if you are closer than 50 feet.
  • If you see its ears go back or the hair on its hump stand up, it is angry and may attack–and can kick lethally with both front and rear feet.
  • Never throw anything at a moose (unlike bear encounters).
  • Keep your dog under control as it will only anger the moose, which will then chase it.
  • If it charges you, get behind something large, such as a tree or boulder.
  • If it knocks you to the ground, protect your head, stay still, and play dead.
  • If all else fails–RUN. Some say that a moose is the only wild mammal or predator that you can run away from.
  • And lastly, following a harrowing moose encounter, change your underwear.

As I said in the bear article, wild animal attacks are rare, and most happen when someone does something stupid (check “moose attack” on YouTube). In my only close encounter with a moose, I was running a trail alone in the Grand Tetons and almost collided with a large bull that had its head down eating grass in a thickly forested area. I didn’t see it until, startled, it raised its head–they’re really big! I was only about  20-25 feet away. I froze. It froze. I s-l-o-w-l-y backed up avoiding eye contact. When I was far enough away, I took a wide loop around him and continued on my way. In that instance, the advice worked. But with moose, be prepared for anything.

Check out my BOONDOCKING and 101 WAYS TO GET THE BIGGEST BANG FOR YOUR RV LIFESTYLE BUCK ebooks, as well as RVing articles on my Healthy RV Lifestyle website.

WARNING: The disturbing video below is not for the faint of heart. This man was attacked trying to enter a building in a town in Alaska. He saw the moose cow and calf but tried to go around them. What he didn’t know, was that some students had been throwing snowballs at them and the cow was agitated. Even more disturbing is that the cars continued to drive by and the videographer continued to shoot while the man was being attacked. The man later died of his wounds. But this will demonstrate just how dangerous a moose can be when provoked.

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  2. Underwear change indeed. Now I know how to escape the moose!

  3. Charles

    The moose at the U of A above, had been harased earlier by some kids and was disturbed. Most will leave you alone if you don’t bother them.
    Watch their ears. if they go back and down, they are very disturbed.

  4. Dennis

    My wife and I was on Isle Royal (MN) about 20 years ago and after dark was looking at the lake (fresh water lake on the island), we turned to head back to our tent and the path looked a bit darker than it was a moment ago, the reason being was a large Bull moose was standing about 8 feet in front of us, he gave us one Grut and we side stepped into the bushes, he ran past us and jumped into the lake and swam across it. It was nice he gave us a warning, but I think warnings are a bit rare to receive.

  5. Tex

    HJ Lamb, I’d say yours is the most thoughtful reply in this whole thread, including mine and some others whom I thought were reasonable.

    I appreciate your practical suggestions.

    If other outdoors people (or indoors people who are outdoors for a spell) would be as sensible, we wouldn’t have the recent visual on TV of the woman standing in front of, and filming a Bison up close in Yellowstone when some nimrod threw a stick and hit the Bison enraging the animal to react and causing it to charge her. My last visit to Yellowstone in 2008 included a view of a family of morons who got out of their car to feed and try to pet the wild donkey herd despite all the signs warning them to 1: Don’t feed the wild animals, and 2: DON’T GET OUT OF YOUR CAR TO TOUCH THE WILD ANIMALS. Geez, we’re a nation of wandering idiots, it seems sometimes.

  6. HJ LAMB

    A bull moose can be big trouble as they can weigh close to a ton and a human is no match. I have met some in the wild while fishing in Glacier National Park and during hunting seasons in Montana. I always gave them a wide berth while making sure I had either bear repellent in Glacier or an adequately powerful rifle for any eventuality during hunting season. Camping out in an RV and running into one is another story. The secret to avoiding trouble is to keep safe distances with plenty of trees in between you and ole Bullwinkle. One can’t walk about armed to the teeth in a campground, but can carry a hiking stick and a can of bear spray. The spray is definitely a good bear repellent however a big moose, as majestic and fearsome as they appear, may not be totally stopped by the spray. It will however cause them to pause and give you time to make a hasty exit using the hiking stick as a last resort for protection. If you feel you must be armed, a short barreled 12 gauge shotgun of legal size (barrels over 18 inches, etc.) in the USA (forget Canada!) loaded with rock salt (not commercially available but can be obtained from any friend who reloads their own shells – remember aspects of liability however) has been used on many occasions by an old friend who used to run the iditarod in Alaska. He said it stopped several gnarly moose in their tracks. It is not lethal unless used at face to face distances and really convinces Bullwinkle to go somewhere else. But by far the best medicine is keeping aware of your surroundings and keeping plenty of distance so ole Bullwinkle won’t feel the need to get aggressive.

  7. “Trouble doesn’t happen very often but it is usually because of false bravado or simple ingorance of how dangerous animals can be.

    “Seeing a moose or a bear in the wild/natural setting is an awesome experience but one that requires common sense and real caution.

    These two sentences are a good and effective bottom line. Thanks Hockyfan.

    And to Ron Butler – I too had hoped for many years to see a moose (and a wolf and mountain lion,but none yet) but when I finally did, I did not rush up to it to take a picture close up. That,as you know, is where people make mistakes. Videos at the visitor centers of tourists trying to take photos of bison in Yellowstone show what can happen when a wild animal acts in a human-defined unpredictable way. In one case the bison threw a man ten feet up into a tree. Even when appearing tame, as in Yellowstone or Smoky Mountain or Glacier National Parks, they are still wild animals and will react defensively if they feel threatened.

  8. Hockeyfan

    I have encountered moose a few times in and around Algonquin Park in Ontario.
    The one that struck me as the most likely where someone could get hurt was in the park on Hwy 60 and my wife’s family was visiting . We were driving along and I had earlier mentioned that if they see a group of cars parked it is one of two things , either an accident or a moose sighting. It was a bull moose standing about 20 feet down an embankment just feeding. There was about 10 cars pulled over and probably about 30 people out. Most were just standing around looking or taking pictures. I knew enough to caution my family to stay behind a vechicle and not make any gestures. I overheard someone else say they were going to try to get closer at which point I told the family to get back in the cars and we were going to leave.
    Trouble doesn’t happen very often but it is usually because of false bravado or simple ingorance of how dangerous animals can be.

    Seeing a moose or a bear in the wild/natural setting is an awesome experience but one that requires common sense and real caution.

  9. Alexandre Tarcitano

    I’ve returned to say that I understand Mr. Difley´s concern in calling our attention regarding how dangerous can be when encountering a moose and I may add any wild animal and I don´t blame him for posting a related video. What I disagree is the fact that someone labels it as ” animal blooper” without knowing the real situation, in this case injuries and finally death of a person.
    I still think that is a interesting post not only to remember about big animals like moose or bear but also those we can´t see like snakes. Double attention must be exercised for those who have children and they are normally aware of danger.

  10. Ron Butler


    Disturbing video, especially to have people close by and not seemingly attempt to distract the moose.

    We have been 2 months in the northeast in the fall – saw NO moose!
    2 months in Colorado mountains – NO moose!
    Glacier & Yellowstone NP – NO moose!
    Canadian Rockies – NO moose!
    Driving into Baniff crossing the railroad tracks – FINALLY, a young one crossing the road!

    Would still like to get a good picture of one, but with great cautiion!

  11. Don Turner

    Give it a rest, people! In Maine, it is not a pretty sight to see the remains of an auto and occupants after hitting a Moose!

  12. Tex

    Dilfey, What kind of a sicko are you? It’s one thing to use your words to warn us of danger in the wild, but it’s way beyond civilized behavior to go find a VIDEO of a moose killing a guy on screen to punctuate your argument. Perhaps it could have been a dear relative of someone out here in that video…father, brother, uncle. Maybe the incident was starkly similar to something that happened to someone dear to one of us, and you’ve done nothing but make a crude, thoughtless, irrelevant, and immature aside to the main point.

    What satisfaction could you possibly derive from proving a point by showing a graphic of a poor human soul being mauled to death by a wild animal? What else do you have in your library…a preserved copy of Steve Irwin being hit in the heart by a Sting Ray, or the video of poor Dawn Brancheau at Sea World being dragged by a Killer Whale to her death? This is what poorly educated and unsophisticated sixth-grader might do, but it’s just way beyond civility for us grown-ups.

  13. Alexandre Tarcitano

    It´s a very shocking video, specially when it is labeled as “animal bloopers”. I can´t see any fun on that as there was a casualty. Unfortunately there was nobody to stop and help the poor guy.

    Alexandre Tarcitano from Brazil

  14. Carl C

    Yeah, I don’t like watching videos where real people are really injured. Movies are one thing because I know it’s make-believe. Videos of actual accounts of animal attacks or people being injured by animals (or whatever really) are not entertainment, IMHO.

    However, there are people who will not believe how dangerous an animal is until they see it for themselves. So, I guess some people are not smart enough to take heed to the warnings.

    Anyway, thanks for the writeup. Moose are on the rebound where I’m living now and I’ve not fully investigated what to do in the event I meet one face-to-scared ****less-face!

  15. That’s a horrible video. That man was killed right here in Alaska at the University of Alaska. Sad to see it here.