Here’s a warning that drivers rarely hear: do not let the moose lick your car.
That’s the message issued in the wintry north by Parks Canada, who say that the salt that builds up on roads — and on vehicles that use the roads — attracts moose, who ingest the sodium in colder months because they need a lot of it “to maintain their bodily functions.”
The agency is concerned that the animals have a habit of stopping on the highways and slurping the salt, and risk getting struck by other vehicles.
“It does sound very funny … It’s OK to laugh at it, as long as people drive responsibly and do what’s best for the wildlife,” said Tracy McKay with the national parks agency. “Parks Canada understands that seeing those wildlife is a real highlight for a lot of people, but we ask people not to stop … so that the moose can’t get used to licking salt off of the cars.”
McKay said that as many as four moose are killed each year by vehicles in and around Alberta’s Jasper National Park.
Roy Rea, an assistant professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and “moose expert,” explained the mammals’ habits to the CBC.
“In the summer there’s lots of greenery around and those plants have a lot more minerals in it … and in the winter they [moose] typically don’t have access to that,” he said. “They have to go where they can to find the salt and … one of the most convenient places for them is if they cross the road and give it a lick.”
McKay says that sand, used as an alternative to improve traction, has trace amounts of salt. “There’s been a few projects in various places that have tried salt alternatives, but they tend to be more expensive or they don’t work as well, or both,” she said.