I learned about a moose stomping a lost soul to death on the University of Alaska, Anchorage, campus, using its hind feet to do the stomping. I have walked within 2 or 3 feet of a moose in pitch black, twice. I heard the individuals chomping on the willows, and figured it best to just keep on going. I’ve been in a tree when a bull passed below me so close I could have put my foot down on his back if I had wanted to. I didn’t want to. I’ve also seen these animals stand up on their hind legs and box each other, more than 15 feet above ground.
The latest episode with moose in Moscow involved a big cow with two calves bedded down in the shade most of the afternoon chewing their cud. Folks who saw them mostly kept their distance, especially the people with dogs. Then the bull calf started browsing along a walkway and one elderly soul decided to photograph them. While fiddling with her camera, the calf sauntered back to where its dam was bedded, right past this person. The bull actually stretched out and sniffed her a foot or two away.
Moose visiting Moscow can become conditioned to humans and tolerate us. However, if one isn’t seen until it’s close by, how it might respond is up for grabs. Usually you can turn around quickly, as I have done on several instances, and hasten away. But there will be times you might not be able to do that. Cows with young calves up into August (they are born around June 1) will aggressively defend their offspring. And as the winter progresses and forage becomes scarce, individuals can also get pretty owly.
The moose I have seen in Moscow look well fed. The ones that wander along the Paradise Path enjoy the dogwoods and willows and those calves I saw last Sunday were robust individuals.
But if a moose that is not in the best of shape comes down from the mountain in winter, it might not be tolerant. And if the winter we are predicted to have is cold and wet, the local moose might become less tolerant as well.
So I suggest that us’ns be a bit aware of the possibility of encountering a moose. Most of the time it results in an experience one can tell about with lots of laughs and no issues. But there may be a time when a close encounter with a moose provides an experience that causes one to learn the hard way that these animals should be left alone. Throwing things at them isn’t the best idea, and dogs had better be kept away too. Best to leave them alone and let them move on without being hazed, as I see it.
A call to the authorities is in order if the moose is causing problems. They can be immobilized and transported, but don’t be surprised if they come back.
At least seven Kodiak bears have home ranges within the confines of Kodiak, Alaska. Slovakia has a substantial number of bears that feed in the dumps at night and leave the daylight hours to humans. Deer are a common inhabitant of many towns. There are lots of examples where people deal with larger mammals in towns.
We Moscowans can do that and I think many of us have. Park signs want us to be bear aware, but here we need to be moose aware.
Not to mention, running into a moose with your car isn’t a good idea. And don’t let your dog chase a skunk, either.
Jim Peek has two graduate degrees in studying moose and has twisted young minds in a wildlife management class for 30 years at the University of Idaho.