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Ensuring safety when encountering moose in Utah’s wilderness

By Staff | Jun 7, 2023

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.

SALT LAKE CITY — Picture this: You’re on a captivating hike toward your favorite waterfall, when suddenly, you turn a corner and come face-to-face with a majestic moose blocking the trail. What should you do in such a situation? Here are some essential guidelines to help you navigate encounters with moose in Utah and prevent any potential conflicts.

Utah is home to approximately 2,500 to 3,000 moose, making it a habitat for these impressive creatures. Moose, the largest members of the deer family, primarily inhabit forested regions along the Wasatch Front and in the northern and northeastern parts of the state. During spring and summer, they typically feed on aquatic vegetation, while transitioning to a diet of bark and twigs in the winter.

Adult moose in Utah can weigh between 600 to 1,000 pounds, with bulls reaching heights of up to 6 feet at the shoulder. Due to their substantial size, moose can pose a threat when they perceive danger. In fact, wildlife agencies in certain areas of the United States report more injuries caused by moose encounters than by bear encounters each year.

Covy Jones, the wildlife section chief at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, shares his experience, stating, “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. People often underestimate how aggressive they can be.”

Understanding moose behavior

Moose can exhibit aggression whenever they feel trapped or threatened. Female moose, or cows, tend to be particularly defensive when they have calves during the spring and summer. Male moose, or bulls, are more territorial and aggressive during the fall breeding season, typically in September.

Moose perceive dogs as natural predators and may feel threatened when they come too close, which can trigger highly aggressive behavior towards the dog or nearby individuals. This can result in charging, knocking someone over, or stomping on them.

Some physical warning signs that a moose may become aggressive include:

  • Lowering their head.
  • Hair standing up on the neck.
  • Licking their snout.
  • Pinning their ears back.

Safety tips to avoid moose conflicts

If you find yourself encountering a moose, follow these safety tips to ensure your well-being:

  • Always give the moose plenty of space and closely observe its behavior.
  • Never attempt to approach or feed a moose.
  • Keep dogs leashed and under control at all times. Remember, Utah law prohibits dogs from chasing or harassing protected hoofed wildlife, such as moose.
  • Remain calm and avoid running away. Instead, make your presence known by speaking calmly and slowly back away in the direction you came from.
  • If a moose charges or chases you, seek refuge behind a solid object like a tree, or try to enter a vehicle or building.
  • If a moose knocks you down, curl into a protective ball, shield your head, and remain still until the moose retreats.

Jones advises, “As with most wildlife, if you give moose plenty of space and refrain from getting too close, it will help ensure your safety as well as theirs. Our biologists relocate numerous moose in urban areas every year, and we strongly encourage people to admire these incredible animals from a distance and stay safe.”

When to report moose sightings

Moose are commonly found in foothill areas, which align with their natural habitat. However, if you come across a moose that has ventured into lower-elevation areas within city limits or densely populated regions, it’s important to report the sighting to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. This enables the relocation of the animal to a safer environment. Failure to relocate moose may result in extended stays in unsuitable areas, potentially leading to injuries or property damage. Avoid approaching moose or attempting to herd them out of yards or roads, as they can exhibit heightened aggression, especially around dogs.

For more comprehensive moose safety tips, we encourage you to visit the Wild Aware Utah website, where you can access valuable resources and information.


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