If you spotted a long-legged ungulate on the loose in downtown Winooski this weekend, don't worry — it wasn't the ghost of Pete the Moose come back to haunt you. It was just your average confused adolescent moose, out for a ramble through the Onion City.
I made a few phone calls after Seven Days associate publisher Cathy Resmer came to work this morning with stories of a moose sighting on Green Up Day. Cathy was picking up trash on Weaver Street and says she was almost run over by a "frantic" moose that bolted out of the police station parking lot.
The moose turned onto West Allen and headed for the river. When Cathy called home to tell her wife Ann-Elise about the sighting, she learned that Ann-Elise had spotted the same moose just a short while earlier, hanging out just beyond the fence in their neighbor's yard. Soon after, the couple's young son, Graham, saw the moose running down the street and exclaimed, "Mom, I just saw the biggest dog I've ever seen in my life running down the street!"
The sightings didn't end there. After Cathy posted on Facebook, other reports trickled in: of a moose running alongside 189, of one dashing across Williston Road and into the Staples parking lot (and dodging traffic as he went).
I called Lt. Curtis Smiley with the law-enforcement division of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Smiley says that wardens get complaints about moose on the loose a few times a year from Chittenden County, though he doesn't think the department received any reports this weekend.
"Moose move around a lot looking for new home ranges," Smiley says. "In the spring, especially, there's a lot of movement."
Much that movement is by female cows looking for a place to birth and raise their calves. The juvenile that Cathy and others spotted was likely a yearling who is now being pushed out of the proverbial nest by his or her mother, who is turning her attention to her new calf. "They're just a little disoriented and confused," Smiley says.
He recommended that residents steer clear of any moose they see in the city, and that they give game wardens a heads up on any unusual behavior or sightings. "Hopefully they'll find their way out on their own to suitable habitat," he says. The department tries to avoid trapping and transporting moose as much as possible.
"If the habitat isn't suitable ... they're going to move on on their own," he says. The trick, he says, is in surviving long enough to move along. The biggest danger to moose in urban areas is being hit by a car.
Image courtesy Flickr user jhoc, used under Creative Commons license