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Moose on the loose in Kootenai Valley

by Hope Nealson Western News
| March 21, 2008 12:00 AM

Reports of moose around town - one even snagging a steak off a grill - have increased this year due to their rising numbers and this year's snowfall.

Although the moose population hit a slump in the early 1990s, it is currently in an upswing, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Biologist Tim Thier.

“There are now higher proportions of calves per cows,” he said. “We have some pretty good bull and calf ratios as well in Northwest Montana, so we are looking to increase the hunter opportunities.”

In 2004, 144 permits for hunting moose were released for Northwest Montana, which has gradually increased to approximately 170, according to Thier.

“The permits are slowly increasing as we see the moose numbers rise,” he said, adding the number of permits for next year's season should go up again.

This year's extreme weather led to even more moose than usual nosing around the outskirts of town for edible vegetation.

“Even though they're better adapted for snow than other animals, a year like this will push them down closer to residential areas,” said Thier. “Snow is a factor.”

Libby Game Warden, Steve Magone said when he is called out to address moose sightings, he tries to avoid angering the moose.

“I'll tell you the predicament,” said Magone. “If you go up there and scare them away, this cow may all of a sudden decide she doesn't like people.

“Moose are actually more of an issue around here than bears,” he added. “People think of them as a grazing animal, but you don't want to go out and approach them. They'll chase you and if they catch you they'll kick the heck out of you.”

The 700-800 pound animals have eyes that move independently of each other, allowing them to see in different directions simultaneously.

Their large ears, which also move independently, allow them to determine sound direction with extremely sensitive hearing.

Magone said they also like to go up and down Flower Creek, as well as Bowen Hill, where a moose and her twin calves have been reported many times.

When Magone went to investigate the trio of moose, he found their tracks, but not them.

“With three it's a little different deal,” he said. “It's pretty hard to catch three at once. We have to be careful because often times they die from being tranquilized.”

Magone mentioned a successful relocation last year, from around Rosauers to the Fisher Creek area.

“If they're around houses, they'll eat bushes and tree limbs, and there really is nothing much to bother them except people - plus they've got the open spots on the lawn,” he added.

“People don't want them eating their bushes and I don't blame them,” he said.

Magone added that many people ask him not to bother the moose.

“For every complaint you have there's two more to leave them alone,” he said. “Hopefully as the snow melts, they'll move out.”

Magone, who grew up in Libby, said there have always been moose in the area this time of year, although not as many.

“There are quite a few around here,” he said. “Especially on the outskirts of town, you may as well expect them because it's going to happen.”