By BARBARA RODRIGUEZ | Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — There's a moose on the loose in Iowa, and officials said they've been able to track its every move because of dozens of calls from curious residents spotting the creature.
The state Department of Natural Resources said it's received many calls over several weeks about a male moose making its way from northern Iowa down south. It was first officially spotted in early November and looks to have covered at least 100 miles.
Vince Evelsizer, who studies furbearers and wetlands for the DNR in Clear Lake, said it's the only known moose in Iowa right now. He said staff members aren't physically out in the field monitoring it, but that's not a problem.
"We get enough calls coming in that we're able to track it that way," he said, and added, "Moose, the nice thing with them, is that they're big and visible. It's not that hard to keep tabs on it."
Evelsizer estimates the young moose is about 11/2 years old due to the size of its antlers. It likely came from northern Minnesota and its natural curiosity led it to Iowa. It's something that occurs once every five to six years.
"It's uncommon, but it happens occasionally," Evelsizer said.
Doug Klinger was driving to work Thursday morning when he spotted the moose east of Cedar Rapids, just 30 feet from the road he was traveling on. Klinger wanted to take a picture but his cellphone battery was dead.
"I just slowed the car down," he said. "I just followed it for a little bit then took off. I didn't realize at the time it was as rare as it is. I knew it was unusual. I wish I would have watched it longer now."
Brenda Kleitsch saw the moose on Nov. 13 about a mile northwest of Fairbank. She was able to spot the creature with some friends and then return with her three young children. She snapped several photos.
"I think I was more excited than the kids were," she said. "They're kids and they have a lot of firsts and they probably figured, 'Oh well, there's a moose," but I'm 41 years old and it's the first time I've seen a moose in Iowa."
Evelsizer said the moose's chances of survival are dwindling as it continues on its southeast path. That's because it's entering a more populated area where it's more likely to encounter cars. It also could fall victim to brain worms that result from contact with whitetail deer. Such an infection would cause the creature to be listless. However, this moose is not exhibiting any symptoms, Evelsizer said.
"Its odds are not high that he's going to have a good outcome here with us," he said. "It's a neat animal to see and for the public to see … but its odds of living happily ever after continue to go down as it heads further south."
Evelsizer said people who spot the moose should remember the creature is protected by state law. The penalty for killing a moose includes a $2,500 fine.
It's unclear how long the moose will remain in Iowa. The animal's activity seems to vary greatly from day to day, remaining in one spot for a time and then covering several miles in a single night, Evelsizer said. Still, he said it's an experience to spot a moose in Iowa, and DNR officials appreciate the calls that have come in.
"I hope it's because we have a pretty good rapport with the public," he said. "I think they're genuinely interested in it and like us to know about it, and they usually have a few questions, too. So that's a good thing. We appreciate the reports."