Autumn in New England brings plenty of activities to look forward to, whether it’s sipping apple cider, picking pumpkins or enjoying the famous foliage. While you are out and about enjoying your seasonal favorites, be alert to the presence of moose and deer.
Many people are surprised to learn that moose are found in Massachusetts. When colonists cleared the forests and unregulated hunting in the late 1700’s, moose were eliminated from Massachusetts. Later, as the population increased in northern New England, moose moved southward. By the early 1980′s moose, the largest member of North America’s deer family, moved into northern Worcester and Middlesex Counties and began to breed. MassWildlife biologists estimate there are approximately 1,000 moose now living in central and western Massachusetts. By comparison, it is estimated that the Commonwealth is home to an astounding 85,000 – 90,000 deer.
Drivers beware: the biggest threat moose or deer pose to humans is an encounter on the roads, especially at night. Both moose and deer are most active between dawn and dusk. However, autumn signals the breeding season for moose and deer, meaning the males will be much more active than usual during the day. Male deer and moose experience “tunnel-vision” during the mating season, spurred by the urge to reproduce. They will often chase females across roads, unaware of motor vehicles.
Hitting a moose, which can weigh anywhere from 500-1,000 lbs, with a car can result in serious injuries and, on a few occasions, has resulted in death. Deer are smaller, but they can inflict substantial vehicle damage when struck and passengers may be injured. Heed the “Moose and Deer Crossing” signs erected by highway departments. Motorists are advised to slow down, do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer; swerving may lead to more damage than hitting the deer. Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer; braking and driving defensively for moose is your best policy.
If you encounter a moose while enjoying the outdoors this fall, keep a respectful distance and enjoy the magnificent creature; it will usually move away. Moose can be found in suburban and residential areas. One should never try to approach or pursue a moose. The best thing to do is to leave the moose alone. They will usually find their own way out of an area. Deer are shyer and generally keep their distance, bounding away the moment they feel threatened. If you spot a moose or a deer that seems to be injured or confined to an area, please contact the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife at 1-508-389-6300 during normal business hours. If it is a weekend or after business hours, contact the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075. If you have a problem, or further questions regarding these creatures, contact your nearest MassWildlife District Office[m1] .
Abundant deer populations and the presence of moose in our state are signs of our high quality wildlife habitat. While you are exploring the Commonwealth and all it has to offer this fall, remember we are sharing this land with wildlife; keep your eyes open and be on alert on the roads.