Record snow is making moose cranky and dangerous, Alaska park says. ‘Be ready to run’


The record-setting snow at Alaska’s Denali National Park has caused moose to be extremely stressed, and they have become dangerous, officials say.

NPS photo

Tourists daring to visit Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve are advise to “be ready to run,” because the moose population has become extremely cranky.

There’s been a record-breaking 5 feet of snow that blankets the park — “an armpit-deep wallow” — and temperatures have been a consistent minus 40 degrees, officials says.

Moose are not handling the situation well, given it’s nearly impossible for them to walk.

“The moose around the park are highly stressed out,” Denali officials wrote on Facebook.

“If you are out and about in the park, stay vigilant, keep your head on a swivel, moose are dangerous. Even though these are pretty big animals, they can be extremely quiet, if not downright sneaky, sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere. Be ready to run if needed.”

Part of the problem is moose are now gravitating to spots cleared of snow by the maintenance crew and those are the same roads, parking lots and sidewalks where visitors tend to linger.

Moose, which can weigh up to 1,400 pounds, have always had a reputation for being aggressive if they feel threatened, experts say. The snow has worsened their paranoia.

“Moose typically respond to threat by flight or fight. Flight is no longer an efficient option, so fight is the dominant response under these conditions,” the park explained.

The National Park Service reported Dec. 31 that Denali National Park and Preserve had broken a series of weather records dating to 1923. The site saw 74.5 inches of snow last month and nearly 55 inches of it fell the week of Dec. 23-29.

The park posted a series of moose safety tips for visitors, including:

  • “Keep your head up and look around before you walk out the door or around the corner and especially while walking on trails or in the dark. Moose can be anywhere and are often hard to see until you are too close.
  • If you see a moose, alter your route and give them a very wide berth. Do not approach! If a moose charges, run away!
  • Don’t try to scare moose away. No yelling, clapping, or approaching on foot or by vehicle, no horn honking, to get them to move. This just makes them ornery and may result in a charge.”

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.


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