Have you heard people mention the "rut" in reference to moose? This is a term used to refer to the fall moose breeding season which happens each September and October. During this time of year, bull moose look for females to breed with and will aggressively defend a female from any other being, whether it be a moose or you! You could certainly say they become highly cranky at this time of year. They also shed the velvet on their antlers leading up to this time in the fall, another reason to be cranky as they try to rub this shedding, velvety blood supply off of their antlers.
This fall period of heightened aggressive behavior is temporary, but it is still important to know how to behave around any moose showing signs of aggression. Just remember - you don't know what kind of day the moose has had leading up to your encounter. Has the moose been dodging traffic or people? Has it been chased or barked at? There are so many factors beyond just the rut which could trigger an aggressive response by a moose. There are signs to look for which indicate that aggression is coming your way: The long hairs on the shoulder hump are raised, ears are laid back, repeated lip movements, a path of walking toward you slowly and directly. If you see these behaviors in a moose, you should slowly back away behind he nearest large object to put something between you and the moose.
If a moose charges you, it is best to try to run around an obstacle such as a tree and take cover. If the moose reaches you and starts kicking, curl in a ball to protect your head and wait to move until the moose has moved a good distance away. If the moose thinks you want to fight back, it will try to subdue you by kicking again.
We suppose you could say this heightened fall aggression is sort of akin to madness. In an effort to educate the community and visitors about moose and the facets of their lives, we developed a fall Moose Madness event, held on Saturday September 1st this year. Fall seemed like a good time to plan an event of this nature, taking the opportunity to raise awareness about moose and safety at a pertinent time of year.
Join us at the zoo on September 1st from noon to 4pm for activities including hands-on deer-related critter items, a moose facts scavenger hunt, kids craft and coloring sheets, story time, deer family enrichment, and more. This event is an annual tradition at the Alaska Zoo and we enjoy sharing it with you as fall leaves begin to turn on zoo grounds.
For more event information, contact Education Director, Stephanie Hartman, at 907-341-6463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Normal zoo admission rates apply and/or annual membership use.
To learn more about moose and safety, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game "What to do about aggressive moose" page or their "Wildlife Safety" page. Be sure to check out the video on moose safety produced by students from Mirror Lake Middle School in Eagle River, Alaska.