So this happened today during my Jasper wildlife photography workshop (sorry for the crappy iphone vid, but this is too good not to share!).

Posted by John E. Marriott Wildlife and Nature Photography on Thursday, October 29, 2015

Why did the moose cross the road? To set up an impromptu car wash, of course. This video, shot in Jasper National Park in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, shows a pair of moose going to town on the salt deposits* on a passing car.

Your first instinct might be to ask why the driver didn't simply move on, but these park visitors are actually doing the right thing. Moose mating season runs from mid-September to November, and the animals are particularly aggressive at this time, so any sudden movements could be enough to instigate a charge. 

"This is a national park, and animals interact with people and vehicles quite regularly," says wildlife photographer John E. Marriott, who uploaded the video to Facebook. "We know you should never feed wildlife."

According to the Department of Fish and Game, the best thing to do when you meet up with a moose is to stay put. "Be patient," they write on their website. "The moose will often move away on its own. It may take half an hour or more, but it's usually worth waiting. Sometimes a loud noise or movement will startle them into moving, but moose that are used to people are usually not easily chased away."

Unlike smaller ungulates such as deer, moose are particularly dangerous to motorists. Their 500 kilogramme (1,100 pound) bodies are elevated to near-head height. But licking cars is also risky business to the moose. So why do it? It all comes down to what's available to eat: the water plants moose feed on in spring and summer contain far more sodium than the vegetation they nibble in winter – so they use the cars and roads to supplement their diets. 

Because interactions like this happen more frequently during this time of year, it's important that anyone driving through the park stop when moose are near. Park officials are also working to establish licks in less accessible areas, in the hope of reducing the animals' interest in human visitors. 

* If you live in warmer climes, this might sound a bit strange to you. The deposits on the car come from salt used on roads in the winter months to prevent them from turning icy and dangerously slippery.


Top header image: Nate Hughes Flickr