Saturday, July 13, 2013

Close Encounters of the Moose Kind

On July 5, I went on a long hike along part of the highway and Mizzy Lake Trail in Algonquin Park. I’ll post some of the other awesome things I found then and on other recent outings soon, but first I want to share an exciting experience I had with a moose.

Part of Mizzy Lake Trail is on an old railway bed, and where it passes through ponds and lakes it offers possibly the best spot in the park to see wildlife. As I approached the far edge of one of the ponds, I surprised a large cow moose that had been feeding on water-shield and other aquatic plants. By backing up a bit I was able to get some awesome video as the moose fed. She seemed completely unconcerned with my presence, barely looking at me and with no concerning body language, at least not that I could notice.

After about 15 minutes, during which time a couple other people stopped by to watch her feed, I wanted to move on so walked back to where I’d left my backpack and insect net. When I got there I heard the sound of the moose coming out of the water, so turned around to get a video of it crossing the road.

At the end of this video I, not surprisingly, turned off the recording and started backing away. As I did so, the moose followed, and then sped up to a steady trot towards me. At this point I took off in the other direction as fast as I could, wishing I had kept in better shape! The moose continued to follow me down the railway bed for about 200 metres, while I ditched everything I had on the side of the trail and continued several hundred metres further. Here, with adrenaline flowing and heart pounding, I waited for about twenty minutes before returning to find the moose gone.

I have never heard of a similar experience away from the mating season (nobody has ever been killed by a moose in Algonquin besides road accidents) and am not entirely sure what the explanation is. I’ve come up with a couple possibilities:
  • The moose had recently lost her calf and was crazy with grief and confusion (it sounds unlikely, but has been known to happen)
  • She was surprised to see me on the path and immediately tried to scare me away.
  • The moose has been approached overly closely before and has lost her fear of people.
If you have a better explanation, let me know. Regardless of the reason, a scary experience at the time but a great story afterwards!


  1. I've had moose very close along there too, but never one actually trot towards me! But, I kept my distance.

  2. Cow Moose can become quite aggressive in spring because they have calves. It's likely that she had a calf back in the brush somewhere and she felt you got a little too close. It's a very common practice for the calf to stay hidden in the buckbrush while the cow goes out to drink or feed until she declares the area safe and empty of threats. A lot of people think that it's only the bulls you need to watch out for, and only in the fall, but cows in the spring can be even more dangerous. There have been cases here of people getting trampled by the cows just because they unknowingly got too close to a hidden calf.

  3. I don't think that is the case here although I thought so at first. She fed unconcerned about my presence for quite some time. It was only after I backed off and started moving on that she came out of the water, seemingly just noticed me standing there, and started chasing. She also started by walking towards me, and only started running when I started backing away. I feel the chasing would be much more deliberate if she had a calf.