Stop – don't feed that moose, however sweet it looks

Cow moose with snow on her nose
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking at the soft eyes of a curious moose poking around in the snow near your ski chalet, you might be tempted to try and help by putting out some food to help it through the winter. However, experts are warning kind-hearted individuals that hand-feeding animals can have severe consequences, for you and for them.

Speaking to Alaska News Source, wildlife biologist Cory Stantorf of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game explained that trying to help moose is both dangerous and illegal.

"[Moose] start approaching people and they can become aggressive when that next person doesn’t have a handout for them," Stantorf said.

The warning comes after a coffee shop owner in Anchorage was fined for feeding a moose last week. 

"Alaska Wildlife Troopers observed Michelle Louise Drury, age 56 of Anchorage, feeding a moose pumpkins in the drive up window line of a coffee cart business at the Carrs Grocery store parking lot located on Jewel Lake in Anchorage," wrote officials in a daily dispatch. "Drury was issued a citation for feeding Game which carries a $320 fine."

Cow moose grazing on a tree in winter

A moose's digestive system adapts to process twigs and bark in the winter, and rich food can cause potentially fatal bloating (Image credit: Getty Images)

Drury said she didn't intend to feed the animal, and that decorative pumpkins fell out of her van while she was unloading her van and an opportunistic moose took the opportunity to grab a snack. She plans to appeal the citation.

Winter adaptations

Offering human food to wildlife can cause severe digestive issues, as Dan Thompson, a wildlife biologist at the Kenai Moose Research Center, told Anchorage Daily News. Although a moose may be able to handle pumpkins sometimes, in winter its digestive system changes to process roughage like twigs and tree bark, which would be its natural diet in the colder months.

If they know you are providing food, they'll keep coming back

Dan Thompson, Kenai Moose Research Cente

"What happens is when you give them something like a pumpkin, or if they get a lot of a lot of good-quality feed really quickly," explained Thompson. "When that goes into their rumen [the largest of their four stomachs], there is a lot of bacteria and other microbes in there that start breaking that down. They produce gas as a byproduct, and it can cause the animal to bloat, which can be fatal to them."

It may be hard, but it's important to leave the animals to forage for themselves, and resist the temptation to offer them an easy meal – for their safety and yours.

"It’s just like bears," said Thompson. "They’ll figure it out pretty quickly, and if they know that you are providing food, they’ll keep coming back – and they can get very aggressive around food, just as a bear can."

For more advice, see our guides what to do if you see a moose and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.