April 22, 2009

Moose pays surprise visit to Watford City

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Nobody can say Watford City is a boring town, especially when it comes to wildlife. It’s common to see deer, rabbits, pheasants and even the occasional turkey roaming around town, but seeing a moose on your way to school, now that is something different even for Watford City.
“As the boys and I were driving to school Friday morning we saw something come out of some trees by the high school,” says JeAnne Homiston. “At first we thought it was a horse, but when we realized it was a moose, we couldn’t believe it! We slowed down to watch it and it walked right out in front of our car and into the alley. It made for an interesting drive to school.”
Shortly after Homiston saw the moose, Brent Schwan, North Dakota Game and Fish Department district game warden received a call about the moose.
“Even though I know there are moose in McKenzie County I was surprised by the call,” adds Schwan. “Along with local law enforcement I began watching the moose because we were concerned for his safety as well as Watford City residents.”
After running around in town for a little while, the moose headed for the fishing pond, someplace that he likely felt safe.
“When I got to the scene, the moose was standing in the middle of the fishing pond,” adds Schwan. “Even though it wasn’t bothering anyone, our main concern was getting the moose out of town to ensure everyone’s safety including the moose’s.”
After about two hours in town, the young bull moose exited the fishing pond and headed into Cherry Creek Trailer Park with officers following to make sure he headed out of town.
“After heading into the trailer park he crossed by the airport and kept going out of town,” states Schwan. “My guess is that he headed towards the river because that’s where most of the moose in the county have been located.”
During a routine NDGFD flyover, 51 moose were spotted along the river bottoms in McKenzie County near Williston.
“Moose like to wallow in the water so they traditionally live close to a source of water,” says Schwan. “Rising water has probably pushed some of the moose away from the river and that is likely why this moose wandered into town.”
According to Schwan, the NDGFD has issued 10 licenses for a new moose hunting unit that runs from Fairview, N.D. along Highway 200 through Watford City to the northern edge of New Town because of the growing population along the river.
Traditionally, most of the moose in North Dakota have been located in the Pembina Gorge and the Turtle Mountains.
“For unknown reasons the population in areas of normal moose habitat like the Pembina Gorge and the Turtle Mountains is decreasing,” says Schwan. “Moose in the plains areas which would not be considered moose habitat have been steadily increasing over the past few years. An example of that is out of the 148 moose licenses issued statewide, this year there are 70 for western North Dakota.”
According to Schwan, while it is unlikely that we will see another moose in town anytime soon, people need to remember that moose are wild animals and it is difficult to predict their behavior.
“Moose aren’t particularly dangerous, but if they feel threatened they can attack and their legs are very powerful,” warns Schwan. “Moose are just like any other wild animal. You can enjoy them, but always remember to give them their space.”