Hooves can hurt – here’s how to stay safe around deer, elk, and moose.

Many Albertans safely co-exist with bears, cougars, and other predators, and we have lots of tools available to help them do that. But animals don’t need big teeth or scary claws to be dangerous. In fact, some of Alberta’s most notoriously dangerous animals aren’t carnivores at all.

Photo of an elk near Lake Maligne in Jasper National Park

Horns and hooves can become dangerous weapons in the wrong situation.

These animals are ungulates – a fancy word for animals with hooves. Although elk, deer, moose, and caribou are not actively aggressive towards humans, they are large and powerful. When they’re scared or stressed, they will react to defend themselves – and that can be very dangerous for anyone who gets in their way.

Here are three main situations when aggression might occur: 

Photo of a young moose.

Baby animals are cute – but keep your distance to avoid upsetting mom.

  1. Mothers may become aggressive when they perceive a threat to their young.
  2. Males can become more aggressive during rutting season in the late fall.
  3. All animals may react defensively when they feel threatened by other animals (like dogs) or humans.

The good news is that just one easy step will avoid most of these encounters:

Keep your distance. If you happen to spot an elk, moose, or caribou in the wild, don’t approach the animal or making any sudden movements. Retreat to a vehicle or building if you can. And never get between a mother and her offspring.

If you’re already close to the animal, watch for these three signs of aggressive behavior:

  • Stomping or flailing front legs
  • Snorting
  • Charging

If you see any of these behaviors, you’re too close – back off immediately. But be careful – it’s important to do so without scaring the animal. Take these five steps:

  1. Back away slowly. Don’t make any sudden movements.
  2. Avoid making direct eye contact.
  3. Talk to the animal in a low, steady voice. Loud noises might scare the animal.
  4. Keep your dogs on the leash and under control.
  5. If you have bear spray, get ready to use it – but don’t use it too soon.

Seeing these animals in the wild is one of the best things about visiting our great outdoors. Feel free to admire them – just make sure you do it from a safe distance, with these safety tips in mind.

2 thoughts on “Hooves can hurt – here’s how to stay safe around deer, elk, and moose.

  1. Pingback: 5 quick tips to keep wildlife watching safe and sustainable | Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

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