Moose on the loose around Ennis

Ennis residents have not had to go far to view wildlife in recent weeks as a cow moose and her calf continue to make themselves at home in their yards usually perched under bountiful fruit trees.

“The Madison River Corridor is excellent moose habitat,” Sam Shepherd, Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 3 Warden Captain, said. “They tend to come lower when it’s dry.”

Shepherd’s main advice when dealing with the large animal is to give them plenty of space, especially since the cow moose may become very protective of her calf. He said the cow is a pretty significant animal to deal with on its own and can become more dangerous if pushed.

Moose usually are not aggressive unless approached too closely. Usually an attacking moose will make a short rush, which usually gets the point across, but occasionally it will make an all-out attack, striking with its powerful hooves. Sometimes the animal will attack as soon as it is surprised, but usually it will give a warning signal – ears laid back against the head and hair standing up on the back of its neck – before attacking.

According to FWP, many landscape and garden plants are attractants for wildlife. One option is to plan landscaping to eliminate as many of those preferred food plants as possible. Even after removing the attractants and installing barriers, there still may be a problem.

“Wildlife damage is an increasing problem due to expanding human populations and loss of wildlife habitat,” according to the FWP website. “Wildlife often finds yards and gardens as rewarding substitutes for lost or changed habitats.”

Game Warden Ryan Gosse has had to move the moose off several times from the same properties. Deterrents, such as an air-horn and rubber bullets have been used, but the moose keep coming back.

“Whatever is attracting the moose to the area, one property in particular, must be pretty strong,” Shepherd said. “In that case we may have to dart and remove the animals from the area.”

Shepherd said they try every other option first before darting animals since the process can be a tricky one and cannot be done in the heat of the day. The drug carfentanyl makes the animal go down quickly and lets the wardens move them into a trailer for relocation. They also administer a drug to reverse carfentanyl’s effects.

When relocated, the animals are moved far enough away that they do not immediately come back, but also are not under immense stress.

“We weigh out the public safety concerns and do what is in the best interest of the animals,” Shepherd said.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists conduct aerial surveys in major moose population areas to keep tabs on moose numbers. The department issues limited numbers of bull, antlerless, and either-sex hunting permits through a random drawing. Hunters in Montana shoot roughly 600 moose each year.

To report wildlife concerns, contact Ryan Gosse at 682-4446.

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