Ask Dr. Dumb: What Runners Need to Know About Moose

Readers, you might not spend much time thinking about moose—and that’s just how moose like it.

Contrary to popular opinion, moose are not cute, cuddly creatures with cotton tails and long, floppy ears. Those are rabbits, and it’s a testament to the power of the moose lobby’s disinformation campaign that you could possibly confuse the two.

No, moose are nasty, brutish animals. Just ask Paul Gallant, a Canadian runner who recently crossed paths with a moose during a trail run. From a news report on the incident:

"He was standing right in the middle of the trail," Gallant said.

"I stopped running, figured I'd take a step back. Every time I took a step back, he took a step toward me. And he's got longer legs, so he's gaining distance." …

"He wasn't moving but his eye was following me. It was so freaky. His eyes were full of red veins, and he was looking at me like it was the end of the world … like I was going to hurt him."

Things “went downhill fast,” the report says, and… well, we won’t get into the details here, but things got ugly. (Gallant was hurt, but not seriously.)

To learn more about moose and moose encounters, we turned to our in-house expert on even-toed ungulates, Dr. Dumb.

Dumb Runner: Doctor, let’s begin by defining our terms. What is a moose, exactly?
Dr. Dumb: The moose—or, as it’s known in the U.S., the “metric deer”—is a large, heavy animal that looks like a standard four-legged mammal, except more mooselike. Females are called “cows” and males are called “Bullwinkle.” Also, they have dewlaps. I mention this because it’s fun to say. Dewlaps.

Are moose and elk the same thing?
You know, I’ve read Wikipedia’s entry on that question five times and I’m still not sure. Let’s say, “Yes and no,” and move on.

How common are moose attacks, and why do they happen?
Not common at all, but when they do happen—oof. They occur most often in the fall, which is mating season. That appears to have been the case in the incident involving Mr. Gallant. As an expert in that article says, "These are males that are really full of hormones. … (T)hey will see you as a threat, or even a competitor. You can be mistaken by them as another moose."

A moose might mistake a human runner as another moose?
Hey, no one said moose were smart.

So how do you stop a charging moose?
You take away his credit cards.

Doctor, please.
Sorry. You sort of teed that one right up. If you find yourself near a moose, the best advice—again, as that article about Mr. Gallant makes clear—is to run away.

So basically, the same advice we give runners who find themselves in bar fights?
Precisely. Which makes sense, as both scenarios involve males who are full of hormones.

So, put another way: “Gallant runs away from the agitated moose; Goofus stays to fight him”?
That highlights the choices very well, yes.

Is the threat of moose attack a good reason to carry a gun while running?
I think it’s always a good idea to carry a gun while running. I have yet to find myself in a situation, while running, that I couldn’t shoot my way out of.

Doctor, thank you for your time.
You are very welcome.