During the winter, it is not surprising to see moose within city limits in the Idaho Panhandle and in other parts of the state. Moose move to lower elevations to avoid deep snowpack and take advantage of milder weather conditions. As the largest member of the deer family, moose sightings are part of what makes living in northern Idaho so spectacular.
Moose are not normally aggressive, but they are unpredictable. A docile-looking moose browsing on shrubs one minute can quickly charge or kick if it perceives a threat to itself or offspring. Mother cows with calves in particular require extra space and caution.
“A moose cow with calf is one of the most dangerous animals people can encounter in the Panhandle,” according to Regional Conservation Officer Craig Walker.
Moose that come into town may be seeking refuge from harsh winter conditions in the mountains. They may be stressed and need time to rest. Give them room to recuperate and don’t provide food that might keep them in town longer. Congregating moose in cities increases the risk of traffic accidents, property damage and may attract predators. This is true for feeding deer and elk as well.
“We’ve had reports of people feeding hay, carrots, even hand-feeding peanuts to moose,” said Walker. All of these foods, even the hay, are unnatural sources of winter nutrition and can hurt the animal’s digestive system.
Feeding starts with good intentions, but almost always does more harm than good. A moose that has been fed may approach people, including children, expecting a handout. This is an extremely dangerous situation, as a food-conditioned moose may become aggressive if it does not receive the treat it is expecting.
A moose that acts aggressively toward people may have to be shot to protect public safety. Relocation is sometimes an option, but moving a moose to new habitat during winter puts the animal at high risk of predation or malnutrition.
Help keep northern Idaho’s moose wild and healthy by allowing them space to move through town undisturbed.