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Moose shooed out of Minnesota town

CROOKSTON, Minn. -- A moose is no longer on the loose in town here.

After spending about 10 weeks in the city limits, entertaining residents and frustrating authorities, the moose has moved -- or, more accurately, been pushed -- out of town.

A week ago, the fifth attempt at herding her to the countryside was successful. She is now residing about two miles east of the city.

Law enforcement and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials are happy to see her gone, but that doesn't match popular sentiment. The female moose, believed by wildlife experts to be nearing her second birthday, had become a source of fascination, if not a mascot, to residents.

"Every day at work, people would ask if there were any moose sightings," Carly Kvasager said. "People were looking for it every day."

Kvasager was among them. Learning of the moose lounging in a South Washington Street backyard, in the heart of a residential area, she rushed to the scene for a photograph. From 30 feet away, she took a photograph of the critter lying next to a metal lawn ornament of a moose.

"It just looked at me, sniffing the air," Kvasager said. "I found the scene comical, as if the moose had finally found a friend."

That same day, Kvasager said, the undaunted-by-humans moose was lying on Washington Street's grassy berm, across the busy street from students waiting at a bus stop.

Such sightings became common along the southern and eastern edges of the city.

However, the first brush between mankind and moose-kind came in Fisher in December.

Bad idea: Petting moose

Devin Peterson, a Fisher High School sophomore, spotted a moose lying in the backyard of a neighbor, basking in the sunlight. He and a buddy wanted a closer look.

"We walked up to it, took a couple of pictures and then petted it for a few seconds," Peterson said. "Then it got skittish, hopped up and just walked away."

Upon learning of the incident, father Darrin Peterson handed out a scolding. "I told him that was the dumbest thing he could have done," the father said. "You don't know where the moose's mom is. And, the young moose may be only 400 pounds, but that's still 250 more pounds than you are."

It's the same moose that moved east to Crookston, said Ross Hier, a DNR area wildlife manager.

A dangerous animal

Normally, moose are dangerous, Hier said.

"Moose kill more humans than any other wild animal," he said. "If a moose doesn't like the scenario, it can put its hooves through your stomach. They have some serious weapons in those hooves."

This moose -- nicknamed Bullwinkle, Mr. Moose and Mike by locals, despite the gender -- is different, Hier said. The moose's mother is presumed to be dead. Hier said the daughter likely had been around Mom long enough to learn how to eat properly, but had not learned to be wary of humans.

Her preference for city life, Hier said, is probably twofold. One is because of a wider variety of trees for twig-eating moose. The other?

"It's an animal who doesn't know any better," Hier said. "You have a large animal that has no fear of things it doesn't understand."

Because of their size, Hier said, moose aren't fearful of much. Wolves are an exception.

Navigating traffic

The moose was first sighted in Crookston on Feb. 20 near the sugar beet factory. It migrated to the industrial park, residential areas and then the Paddy & Paul convenience store, Happy Joe's pizzeria and Christian Brothers Ford, all businesses along U.S. Highway 2.

"She appeared to be totally at ease among buildings, traffic and people," Hier said. "And this moose is the savviest about crossing roads than any I've ever known. They're usually not bright about highways. I've handled at least four moose hit by vehicles over the last two years."

Hier said he has known only one other moose that was as social. That moose was dubbed Lonesome Lou when she was pictured on the front page of the Grand Forks Herald in the 1980s, looking into a Crookston home's picture window.

In that case, Lou was sick and didn't survive the winter, Hier said.

Becoming a country moose

Hier and Crookston Police Chief Tim Motherway said they were surprised about how the public was captivated by the moose, which grew into a tourist attraction. They feared that the moose would never want to leave.

However, success came on the fifth try of chasing the moose eastward with ATVs and other vehicles.

"Chasing it out of town was preferred because we wanted people to stay away from it because it's a wild animal, not a pet," Motherway said. "But we also didn't want to remove the moose by killing it."

They're not sure why the fifth time was the charm.

"I'm surprised and thankful she has moved off," Hier said. "Maybe nature has urged her to get moving."