SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Your image of a moose might be of a gentle giant grazing on a mountainside, but it should be noted that more moose injure people than bears each year, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

So what do you do if you encounter one in the wild?

“In my years of working with wildlife, I have dealt with bears, rattlesnakes, cougars, and moose, and the only species that I’ve had turn and come back at me was a moose,” DWR Wildlife Section Chief Covy Jones said. “People often underestimate how aggressive they can be.”

Weighing anywhere between 600 lbs. and 1,000 lbs., and standing as much as six feet tall at their shoulders, a conflict between an adult moose and an unprepared human could go horribly wrong in the wild. And when they feel threatened, they can get very dangerous very quickly.

Female moose, also known as cows, can get particularly protective of their young, especially in the spring and summer when they’re newborns. Male moose, also known as bulls, tend to get more aggressive during the fall breeding season, specifically around September.

Moose also consider dogs to be natural predators, meaning your beloved pet could be seen as a threat, leading them to stomp or charge at dogs.

Courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

“Like with most wildlife, if you give moose plenty of space and don’t try to get too close, it will help keep you and them safe,” Jones said. “Our biologists relocate numerous moose in urban areas every year, and we really want people to admire these amazing animals from a distance and stay safe.” 

Utah is home to between 2,500 and 3,000 moose. The largest animals in the deer family, moose can be found along the Wasatch Front and in northern and northeastern Utah, typically in forested areas. Moose generally eat aquatic vegetation during spring and summer, and then they switch to a diet of bark and twigs in the winter.

What does an aggressive moose look like?

Some physical warning signs that a moose is not happy with you include:

  • Lowering their heads
  • Hair standing up on their necks
  • Licking their snout
  • Pinning their ears back
Courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

How do you stay safe around moose?

  • Always give the moose plenty of space, and watch its behavior closely.
  • Never approach or try to feed a moose.
  • Keep dogs leashed and under control. (It’s actually against the law to allow dogs to chase or harass hoofed wildlife like moose.)
  • Stay calm. Don’t run away.
  • Talk and make your presence known while slowly backing away in the direction you came from.
  • If a moose charges you, hide behind something solid like a tree. Try your best to get inside a vehicle or building
  • If you get knocked down by a moose, curl into a ball, protect your head, and lie as still as you can until the moose leaves.
  • If a moose appears in your yard, do not attempt to “herd” them. Call DWR.

When should you report a moose to DWR?

It’s not uncommon to see moose in the foothill areas, but you should report one if they wander into city limits or highly-populated areas. DWR will then attempt to relocate the animal to a safer space. If they aren’t relocated, they can stay in urban areas for a long time, potentially injuring people and damaging property.