October 6, 2012 in Washington Voices

Best not to mess with mighty moose

Pat Munts
Photo by Pat Munts photo

Moose may look docile and tame but they are dangerous and are best observed from a distance. This cow stood at least six feet at the shoulder and her calves were bigger than adult whitetail.
(Full-size photo)

Our plum tree was loaded this year and we were looking forward to making some jam and canning the rest.

That is until my husband went out to pick the crop and found the critters had beaten him to it.

Our total crop ended up being 27 plums. The raccoons, porcupine and two female moose and their three calves had eaten the rest.

Several neighbors had said there were at least two female moose hanging around the area since late August. One had a single calf, the other twins. They spent their days lounging in yards and snacking on shrubs and small trees.

My husband’s and my encounters with them got personal about two weeks ago. First, my husband nearly ran into one while driving near Painted Hills Golf Course. The next night our cats alerted us that something was going on outside, and when I investigated, I came within 6 feet of one of the twin calves below our deck. The following morning I came face to face with the same group shredding our plum tree when I went to get in the car to go to work.

Fortunately all these encounters didn’t lead to any injuries to us or the moose. Our fruit trees, however, had a lot of leaves and twigs stripped off up to a height of 8 to 9 feet. I will fix what I can when I do winter pruning.

Moose are nothing to mess with, and we were lucky. This time of year, they can be found close to rural and urban residential areas where well-watered yards still offer green shoots to munch on. September and October are also their breeding season, so they are looking for mates and even more unpredictable.

If you encounter a moose, don’t get too close. They do not run away like deer when they sense danger. They will stand their ground and may charge you, especially if you have a dog with you. The dog’s cousin, the wolf, is a major predator of moose calves. A moose may actually walk toward you and put back its ears to tell you to stay back. Their long legs can put them on top of you quickly and their huge hooves can kick and stomp anything they choose.

Don’t feed moose under any condition. They can become aggressive when it’s not provided regularly and even go after other people or dogs. There is no way to fence a moose out of a garden. They are so big and strong they will go through a fence if they choose to. Trying to shoo them away can get you stomped. If a moose wanders into a small space don’t block the exits or get too close. They will usually find their way out.

If you do encounter moose in areas where they could be a danger to people or traffic or be easily injured, call the Washington Department of Wildlife’s Spokane Office, (509) 892-1001, for assistance.

Reach Pat Munts at pat@ inlandnwgardening.com.

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