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Sick moose euthanized

A moose that had captured the attention and imagination of many Crookston residents after it had wandered the streets of the small Minnesota town this week was euthanized Tuesday morning.

A moose that had captured the attention and imagination of many Crookston residents after it had wandered the streets of the small Minnesota town this week was euthanized Tuesday morning.

Stuart Bensen, a state Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who shot the moose, said it was infected with a fatal parasite called "brain worm," which would have led to a slow, painful death for the animal. Bensen also said the moose, which was disoriented and had impacted gross motor skills and mental capacity, could have presented a safety risk to the town's residents.

"Public safety became paramount above everything," Bensen said. "If it became aggressive, it could have injured somebody. It's just a moose. The safety of the public comes first."

The moose had been spotted just north of town a few times before Crookston Police Chief Tim Motherway found it walking down Fisher Avenue about 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.

"He was walking real slow," Motherway said. "He seemed tired and very lethargic. He slipped a few times on the ice."


Motherway used his squad car to coax the moose off the road, and the animal walked across a parking lot before lying down by a tree near Wal-Mart.

The moose stayed there until sunrise, when it got up and walked past Wal-Mart and a bank before proceeding down U.S. Highway 2 to the University of Minnesota-Crookston campus. Motherway said the Police Department attempted to keep the moose off the road and away from people and slowly herded it out of town.

"People stopped by and took pictures of it with cell phone cameras," said Gail Hoffman, who works at the Irishman's Shanty bar in Crookston. "They thought it was interesting to see a moose in town. It really surprised everybody."

Hoffman said the moose became a hot topic of conversation among locals around town. It was discussed by patrons at local businesses, disc jockeys at a local radio station and was featured in the Crookston Daily Times.

"It's kind of fun to see a moose in town around Christmastime," Hoffman said. "It's really sad they had to put it down."

Despite being escorted out of town by the police, the wayward moose returned before meeting its untimely end.

With the dazed and confused moose still on the loose, the DNR's Bensen received a call about the animal and arrived at the scene about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The moose had laid down on the ground next to a large berm of dirt behind the Northland Inn on the north end of Crookston near the UMC campus.


Bensen shot the moose by the berm. He said a local trapper planned to use some of the animal's meat for bait before disposing of the carcass.

"It's unfortunate," Bensen said. "There are very few moose left in northwestern Minnesota. But brain worm is very bad. Once they have it, there's no cure."

Bensen said capturing the animal and caring for it would not have been possible or plausible, and in its condition, it would not have lived much longer anyway.

"That's Hollywood," he said. "That's TV stuff. It just doesn't happen."

Bensen said that while the moose have been docile in most of the more than 200 cases of moose with brain worm he has put down, some become aggressive. He said one such animal almost killed him.

"He just about got me," Bensen said. "Came after me at a dead run. He had lost eyesight in one eye. I zigged when he zagged; otherwise, he probably would have got me. I rolled around on the ground, came up and had my firearm ready when he came for me again. He meant to stump me."

Motherway estimated he has witnessed about four moose sightings in town in the past 20 years.

"It's not every day you have a moose walk into town," he said.


Motherway said the other moose he has seen around town acted spooked, and one actually ran through peoples' backyards.

Bensen said moose usually are afraid of people and avoid populated areas.

"He had no fear of people," Bensen said. "He was just wandering aimlessly. That isn't typical. A healthy moose isn't going to do that."

Reach Schuster at (701) 780-1107 or rschuster@gfherald.com .

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