Did Murray the Moose make it back home? Let's hope so
After nearly a month of roaming Rock County, a wayward moose may be gone.
I write “may be” because I don’t want the last social media post about a young male moose lying in a ditch near Tea, South Dakota, to be the same young male moose that’s been roaming Rock County.
Sightings of the Rock County moose began around Halloween when the first pictures of the young moose surfaced. The most startling sighting was a video of the young moose trotting down Highway 75 near the Luverne Farm Store a day or two later.
Every four to five days since then, pictures of the moose were shared. At one point, a spotter suggested naming the moose “Murray.”
Murray wasn’t the only moose on the loose, so to speak.
On Nov. 5, news accounts showed a young moose roaming through the SDSU football stadium in Brookings, South Dakota. While it’s possible it could have been Murray, the distance may be a little too far, as the Brookings moose was reported heading west, farther into South Dakota.
Wandering moose are not unusual, said Barb Keller, the big game program director with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. A wandering moose in southwest Minnesota, while not out of the question, is a little unusual.
Keller suspects the moose may be from northwest Minnesota, where about 100 head are known to live.
Young males are more likely to take an excursion as they leave their native surroundings. While they usually don’t wander hundreds of miles outside their birth places, it is not that uncommon for some moose to be more adventurous — say, complete a jaunt through southwestern Minnesota, which is a little more unusual.
Our Murray has been quite the traveler as he wandered to the Lismore area, only to be spotted back in the Hills area a week later. The Hills-Steen area seems to be his favorite place to be.
His wandering may be in search of food that he is more familiar with. Keller said the moose can subsist on an unusual diet of prairie grass and corn, but his usual diet is tree leaves and plant shoots found in the forested areas farther north.
More disappointing may be that Murray is suffering from brainworm, which affects an animal’s nervous system. Affected animals seek open areas for prolonged periods of time. They move in circles with a noticeable head tilt and apparent blindness. While brainworm is not likely to kill the moose, it makes the animal more susceptible to predators.
From the pictures and videos I’ve seen of Murray, he appears to be healthy. The last reported social media sighting of Murray was posted Nov. 23 in the Hills area.
This week would be the longest stretch between sightings since Murray first surfaced.
Let’s hope our mild weather convinced the heavy-coated young moose to travel farther north where it’s cooler and where other moose live.