The largest of the deer family, moose can be found all across the northern forests of North America. Their habitat, however, generally doesn’t include Washington. While some roam the forests of northern states like Idaho, Montana, and Maine, their numbers are far larger in the colder environments of Canada and Alaska.
Visitors and workers at Mount Rainier National Park see countless deer and elk wandering the mountainous terrain, but never any moose – until now. Recently, a female moose was spotted in Mount Rainier for the very first time, and it’s safe to say wildlife officials were just a little excited about it.
Posting the unbelievable sighting to Facebook, park officials could hardly contain their joy. “Wait! Is that a MOOSE??? Yes, that IS a moose spotted on Sunrise Road!!! This is the first recorded moose sighting from within Mount Rainier National Park and southwestern Washington!” the caption read. “Yes, I know that’s a lot of exclamation points, but we are really excited about this sighting!”
“This is awesome!! What a beautiful creature,” one user replied. “This is amazing news!!!!!” another said. “The thought less common animals expanding their range in our state is exciting to me,” added a third.
A similar sighting was documented over the summer when a moose was spotted wandering the Snoqualmie Pass area about 40 miles from Mount Rainier. Because of the proximity and shared descriptions, park officials suspect it was the same animal.
If You See a Wild Moose, Proceed With Caution
Moose aren’t wholly unheard of in Washington, but The Evergreen State is home to a mere 5,000 of the massive mammals. To put that into perspective, about 200,000 live in Alaska, and more than a million call Canada home.
Those near Mount Rainier are also smaller than their Northern relatives (by comparison, they’re still huge). The Shiras moose in Washington is about six feet tall at the shoulder and weighs over 1,000 pounds.
With that incredible size in mind, it’s important to remember that moose should never be approached in the wild. Believe it or not, moose pose a greater danger to humans than bears. It’s not that they’re man-eating monsters or that they actively hunt humans, but they can become aggressive when threatened.
“Moose are not normally aggressive,” explained the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “However, they can become aggressive when they are harassed by people, dogs, and traffic, or when hungry and tired, especially in winter when they must walk through deep snow.”
For the most part, in an encounter with a human, a moose will run the opposite direction. If it doesn’t, back away slowly. In the rare instance of an attack, run away as fast as you can. When the moose feels that it’s driven you far enough away, it will likely abandon the charge.