DIFW Rescues Moose

DIFW Rescues Moose

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recently rescued a troubled moose, moving it to a safer place where they are monitoring it to see if it gets better.

Here is their story:

How to Move a Live Moose

February 11, 2020 at 7:07 pm by Emily MacCabe

By Regional Wildlife Biologist Scott McLellan

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is now in its 7th year of a moose telemetry study in Wildlife Management District (WMD) 8, which resides between Moosehead Lake and Quebec and encompasses almost 2,000 square miles. We have monitored hundreds of moose here with transmitters that are attached to the neck that we can track via a computer or special ground equipment. We occasionally recognize a situation where a moose stays in one area for an extended period for unknown reasons. When this happens, we have multiple decisions to make.

As wildlife biologists, we need to be ready for many complicated situations at any given time.  When a cow moose in the southern part of WMD 8 stayed situated in a very small piece of woods between Rte. 201 (which is a heavily-travelled road) and the Kennebec River, we became concerned about the safety of both the public and the study animal.  Therefore, several statewide biologists and one district game warden convened on site to discuss the options.

First and foremost, the fact that this moose was stationary in one small area for over 2 weeks gave us reason to believe that the animal could be suffering from health complications. The option that was the most popular and logical was to immobilize the animal, load it into the back of a snowmobile trailer, and drive it to a different location where it would be less of a public safety risk and to hopefully increase her probability of survival.  Simple, right?

We are professionally trained to safely immobilize animals using chemicals prescribed to us by cooperating veterinarians. There are risks involved when immobilizing an animal, and we are also trained to handle those unplanned events. Our initial approach towards the animal confirmed that the moose was not acting normally. It allowed us to walk within close range to deliver a dart containing chemicals that would put her to sleep temporarily. After 10 minutes, the animal was on the ground in a resting position and unconscious enough to allow us to safely approach her.

The priorities upon our arrival were to blindfold her, remove the dart, replace the radio collar with a newer one, and place her into a jet sled that we would pull into a snowmobile trailer.  We also performed a quick health evaluation to determine if there was anything obviously wrong with her, but the only noticeable abnormality was the lack of muscle matter she had.  Her backbone, pelvic bones, and ribs were more visible than normal for an adult moose this time of year.

We put the moose inside the snowmobile trailer and drove to a predetermined and safer location that might enhance her survival chances.  She handled the ride well and was still in deep sleep when we unloaded her from the trailer.  At this point, the last to-do was to reverse the chemicals that we had initially given her so that she would regain her strength and control. Within 15 minutes of injecting her with the reversal, she rose to her feet and eventually wandered away from us and into the remote woods of northern Maine.

Since being introduced to her new home, we have tracked her movements and progress daily.  As I write this, she is still alive and content in a mature softwood stand near the release site.  This softwood stand is dense enough that the collar is having difficulty communicating with satellites, but we continue to monitor the situation.  We are always ambitious to learn new things and we are especially excited to learn what her fate is.  She has provided us with 4 years of valuable data (she was collared as a calf on January 5, 2016), and we are hoping that this decision will result into a better life for her and years of future data for us.  If she survives the winter, we will track her during the month of May to determine whether or not she successfully produces and raises a calf.




George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.