One of the best parts to hiking is seeing some of the amazing wildlife in their natural environment. Some are nicer to see than others. Seeing a hungry bear or mountain lion might have you thinking twice about your decisions to hike that day. For many, seeing a moose is one of the highlights of any hiking trip in the mountains but moose are one of the most dangerous animals so it is important to watch from a distance. Or just look at this blog to get your fix! I had a pretty long interaction with a cow and calf and also saw a bull on a recent trip and wanted to share some pictures so you can watch from the comfort of your own home.
I promise you there will be some very cute pictures at the end of the blog and in the gallery but I wanted to make sure to give some warnings about moose before I show you how majestic they are.
Bull Moose are one of the most fascinating animals to see in the wild but don’t be mistaken by their size and relatively slow movements. Moose wake up each morning in a bad mood and often choose violence. Plus, an adult moose can run 35 miles per hour so getting close is not a good idea unless you want 1500 pounds of fury to come play patty cake in an instant.
Bulls are especially feisty in the fall when they are looking for a mate. During mating season, or the rut, the hormones are going full blast and they have no trouble fighting other full grown bulls for the attention of a cow so don’t think they won’t charge you either!
Cow and Calf
In the spring it is common to see cows together with their calves. Mothers become extremely protective of their babies during this time and have no problems knocking you into next week if you come close. Calves stick around their mom’s for about the first year before heading out on their own so if you see a smaller moose on your hike make sure to look around and try to spot mom!
The calves aren’t exactly small either. They may not wake up and always choose violence but they are definitely not in the best of moods. They are about the size of a small horse and are a little wobbly on their feet but can still pick up speed pretty quick!
Moose Vs. Dog
One of the main predators for moose are wolves. Dogs evolved from wolves and still share a lot of DNA similarities. More importantly they look a lot like wolves. Close enough that moose have no problem going into straight attack mode if they see one where it shouldn’t be. This is why it is so important to keep dogs on leashes when you are around moose.
A typical interaction with an off leash dog goes like this. Fido heads off the trail into the woods and runs into a moose grazing. The moose immediately believes that Fido is a threat and charges. Fido, who is used to getting pets at the dog park, gets worried and runs back to mom and dad. Well, Fido just happens to be bringing a trailing 1 ton missile of mayhem with it. The moose, full of rage and defense instincts, decides to hit and kick everything in its path and knocks fido and the parents into a different shoe size.
So when the rules say to keep the dogs on a leash this is why. It happens more often than you think and it leads to some really dangerous situations for the moose, the dog and the owners!
Observing Moose (and other animals)
The best rule to observing animals in the wild is the rule of the thumbs. The rule of thumb is that you hold up a thumb at arms length, close one eye and if your thumb covers the animal completely then you are far enough away. If you can see any part of the animal around your thumb then you are too close and it is time to back up.
Another factor is to check your footing. While it might be hard for you to cross a stream or some rocky terrain, the animals don’t have those same concerns. Having a stream between you and a moose for instance provides no protection. Moose are used to running through streams to get to the other side and I promise they will get across it faster than you can back up. In scenarios with bad footing the rule of thumb won’t be far enough and you will want to move even further away.
Now for the fun stuff!
One thing that is rare to see, or at least I have never seen it is a moose nursing her calf in the wild. I was lucky enough to catch some video of this happening.
Another thing I was not aware of was that when calves are little their necks don’t seem long enough to reach all the good food. So in that case they actually kneel down on their front knees to get a little lower.
Calves in general are really cute!
Cow moose may not be as big as the bulls but they are still pretty big! Somehow they can still get lost in a field of trees!
There are more pictures in the gallery below and also on my Facebook and Instagram pages! Be safe any time that you are out there in the wild and come across wild animals! Enjoy the views from a far and remember that we are in their home not the other way around!
More from the Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Screw it, I’m Trying” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.