Moose roam more widely than usual beneath the colorful leaves of fall. It’s the period known as the rut, when male moose travel far and wide in search of a mate. So if you’re out leaf-peeping this season in New England, you’ve got a better than usual chance at spotting one. To help gauge your odds, here’s a quick run-down of the latest moose population estimates by state, as well as a quick reminder about how to safely view this majestic creature—and what to do if a moose decides to charge you.
Moose are present in every New England state but Rhode Island. The overwhelming majority can be found in Maine, which has more moose by far than the rest of the region combined. But moose have been spotted in some surprising locations, especially at the edges of their current range. While population estimates are just that—estimates—here are some of the more reliable numbers I was able to find.
Maine: 60,000 to 70,000 moose
Maine has a larger moose population than any other state in the Lower 48. The population was estimated at 76,000 in 2014 but recent declines in numbers—including from a deadly scourge of winter ticks—has reduced their numbers somewhat. This map, which indicates the frequency of moose-vehicle collisions, is a good proxy for where moose are most common.
New Hampshire: 3,500 moose
The New Hampshire moose population has fluctuated significantly in recent decades, from 1,600 in 1988 to a peak of 7,000 to 7,500 in the late 1990s. Today the moose is at about half of its peak; the decline is due in roughly equal parts to active population control by the state and the effects of other threats, including winter ticks and brainworm, especially in the southern part of the state.
Vermont: 2,200 moose
As in New Hampshire, Vermont’s moose population was significantly higher (around 5,000) in the early 2000s, a level the state considered overabundant. Per Vermont Fish & Wildlife, the large numbers of moose were “overbrowsing and destroying important wildlife habitat, and were impacting local forestry practices.” An active moose population study is underway in the state to better gauge the current number and health of the state’s moose.
Massachusetts: 500 to 1,000 moose
I had a hard time finding a reliable source online for current moose population estimates in the Bay State. Various news reports in recent years, including this 2014 article from the Boston Globe, indicate an approximate population of 1,000 but, given the general decline of moose populations across the region, I’m guessing the actual number is less than that. Moose are most common in the north-central part of the state, though they also live in the Berkshires and occasionally wander as far east as the Boston suburbs, including a wayward youngster that was spotted running through the streets of Belmont and Watertown in 2016.
Connecticut: 100 moose
A small resident moose population has become established over the past 20 years in the northeastern portion of state, with most moose sightings occurring in towns adjacent to the Massachusetts border.
If you are lucky enough to spot a moose, remember to keep your distance. If a moose does feel threatened by your presence, it does one of two things. Often the moose simply leaves the area to avoid the threat. But sometimes it responds aggressively to make you leave the area instead. The minimum safe distance from a moose varies widely depending on the surrounding environment and the temperament of the animal. As a general rule, if you are causing the moose to change its behavior in any way, you are too close.
If a moose approaches you, remember that an aggressive, confrontational moose is trying to do one thing: drive you off. So if a moose comes toward you, back away. If it charges, RUN! Do not stand your ground. If possible, place a tree or other nearby object between you and the moose as you retreat. Once the moose has driven you far enough away, it will leave you alone.