Division of Wildlife warns drought conditions may increase moose sightings

Moose may wander into urban areas seeking water sources.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A moose is stranded in the Lambs Creek diversion pond near Mountain Dell golf course, on Sunday, September 20, 2020. Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020.

More moose may be coming to an area near you, according to the Division of Wildlife Resources.

In a Monday press release, the Division said that moose may be lured into more populous areas in search of water sources due to the state’s extreme drought conditions. The warning comes after Cache County residents were warned of a “loose moose” seen in the Hyrum area on Sunday, according to a report from ABC4.

“We typically just try and do this kind of safety messaging annually, and this is kind of the time of year that we’ll see moose kind of wandering down into some city areas looking for food or water, especially during drought years,” said Faith Heaton Jolley, public information officer at the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Park City is an area where Wildlife Resources has gotten a lot of calls about moose sightings as the city’s elevation makes it closer to the animals’ normal habitat.

“We get a lot of calls to relocate moose that are up there that have either gotten into the highway near I-80 or if they are just in people’s yards; things like that,” Heaton Jolley said. “There’s baby moose calves being born this time of year too... people [shouldn’t] touch them if you see them; they’re not lost, their moms haven’t abandoned them… don’t try and rescue them.”

Individuals are advised to never approach a moose and give the animal lots of space if they encounter one. It is against Utah law to allow dogs to chase or harass protected wildlife, like moose. When they come across a moose, people should stay calm and not run away, talk, “make [their] presence known and slowly back away in the direction [they] came.”

Cow moose, or females, can be aggressive if they have calves in the spring and summer, where bull moose, or males, are aggressive during the fall breeding season. Moose can feel threatened when people or dogs get too close, “which can also make them aggressive and lead them to charge, knock someone over and stomp on them,” according to the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Physical warning signs that a moose may become aggressive are if the animal lowers its head, if its hair stands up on its neck, if it pins its ears back or if the moose licks its snout.

“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,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said in the release. “People often underestimate how aggressive they can be.”

If a moose charges, individuals should hide behind something solid, like a tree, or try to get inside a vehicle or building. The Division of Wildlife Resources advises individuals to curl into a ball, protect their head and lie still in case a moose knocks them down.

“Like with most wildlife, if you give moose plenty of space and don’t try to get too close, it will help keep you and them safe,” Jones said. “Our biologists relocate numerous moose in urban areas every year, and we really want people to admire these amazing animals from a distance and stay safe.”