FARGO — A moose made an appearance in Fargo Thursday morning, Oct. 1, creating excitement and prompting urgings from police for the public to leave the animal alone in hopes it would peacefully leave town.
And that is what appeared to have happened by early afternoon, when Fargo police posted on Facebook that the moose had left town safely, though a spokesman for North Dakota Game and Fish Department cautioned that the moose could return and if it did people should continue to leave it be.
A Fargo moose story from 2003 had a less happy ending.
In April of that year, a cow moose and her calf were shot and killed by Fargo police officers after the animals wandered into south Fargo and it was decided the pair posed a threat to public safety.
A police sergeant was quoted at the time as stating the animals were in an agitated state and a lot of people could have been in danger.
The moose were shot after walking through an area near Fargo South High School, where members of the public, including students on their lunch break, began following the animals through residential neighborhoods.
The shooting of the moose sparked a large amount of public debate, with many questioning why an effort wasn't made to drug the animals and move them out of town.
Doug Leier, a North Dakota Game and Fish officer who advised officers to shoot the animals in 2003, said on the day following the incident that he would probably make the same call again given the same situation.
He also said at the time that drugging the moose was dismissed as an option because of the many risks involved in taking such a step.
On Thursday, Leier was working with Fargo police and the Fargo Park District to monitor the latest moose situation and he said as of early afternoon the moose was doing well and not in an area where it posed a problem.
He warned, however, that could change, as the moose and its course were unpredictable.
Leier said every situation involving wildlife in an urban setting is unique and therefore requires a unique solution, making it difficult to devise policies that spell out what officials should do in every situation.
He said one option that even now is unlikely to be used on moose is immobilizing them with drugs, as that course can be fraught with unknowns and put people at risk.
One such risk arises from the fact it takes a large amount of drugs to sedate a moose, according to Leier, who said a sedated moose released to the wild will carry amounts of drugs for some time and that could pose a risk to a hunter who kills the moose and consumes the meat.
The regular moose season begins in some parts of North Dakota Oct. 9.
In the 2003 situation, the cow and calf were processed and the meat given to nonprofit organizations.
Jeb Williams, wildlife division chief for North Dakota Game and Fish, said Thursday among the reasons drugging moose may not be a good option is the difficulty in getting the dosage correct, leading to the possibility of an overdose.
If that happens, he said, the meat cannot be salvaged and used for human consumption.
He said watching and waiting may often turn out to be the best option, even if the situation doesn't look very promising in the beginning.
"We've had moose in all our major cities," Williams said, recalling an incident a few years ago when a moose ended up in downtown Bismarck and reportedly walked through the drive-through of a McDonald's restaurant.
"I remember saying to myself, 'There's no way this situation is going to end well,''' Williams said, adding, however, that Bismarck police decided to remain hands-off unless action was absolutely necessary.
As generally happens when moose are left alone, the animal ended up working its way out of town "and all was good," Williams said.