Meandering moose brings exposure to Twin Falls' northern side

Brad Bowlin
Times-News reporter

TWIN FALLS — Welcome to Cicely, Alaska. You'll excuse the folks on Twin Falls' north end for feeling like extras on the set of "Northern Exposure" Thursday afternoon when they looked out their windows to see a misplaced moose wandering around.

The moose mascot of the CBS television series set in that fictional Alaskan village is decidedly more mellow than Twin Falls' own version, however.

In fact, the 500-600 pound bull moose remained loose Thursday night despite being shot with three tranquilizer darts and being run ragged by a caravan of Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials and curious onlookers.

"We're just going to let him rest tonight, and we'll see what tomorrow brings," Fish and Game wildlife biologist Randy Smith said. "If people will just leave him alone, I think he'll be all right."

The bedraggled moose finally bedded down in a shady spot in some farmland near the Snake River Canyon west of the Twin Falls Gun Club Thursday evening, Smith said.

He estimated the moose to be about two and half years old. It probably came from the Sublett-Malad area, which is home to the nearest established moose population.

If and when he is captured, the moose will be taken north of Fairfield, where the Fish and Game Department is working to establish a viable herd, Smith said.

Thursday's safari began at the Los Lagos condominiums along Washington Street North, where the wayward moose was standing in a decorative pond looking for a snack.

He stayed around until Fish and Game officials came along and flushed him out of the pond.

The intent was to tranquilize the moose and transport him to the Fairfield Ranger District, but the big mammal had other ideas.

The moose spent the rest of the day dodging officers and onlookers. On one occasion, he almost trampled a television cameraman.

By mid-afternoon, he had wandered into the parking lot of the Target store on Blue Lakes Boulevard North.

There were no bargains on water cress and moss there; so he wandered south across a vacant lot to Gary's Westland Motors with a couple of Fish and Game officers and some law enforcement fellows in tow.

"He sure was a different-looking customer," salesman Pat Parks said. But he didn't stick around long when he spotted the quiet shade of the College of Southern Idaho campus across the way.

Next thing you know, CSI baseball coach Skip Walker had a bull moose hanging out in deep left field.

"I looked up and saw him on the other side of the fence, and I looked again and said `Geez, is that a moose?'"

Bunting practice was curtailed, and the team followed the meandering moose to one of the buildings on campus.

By the time they arrived, the moose was curled up in a corner, still awake but groggy from a tranquilizer dart.

The drugs are supposed to knock the moose out after four or five minutes, said Craig Kvale, who did the shooting for Fish and Game.

But after 15 minutes, Mr. Moose was up stretching his legs and hiding behind a van. The wait drew a sizeable crowd, and prompted wildlife biologist Mike Todd to launch into his Bullwinkle impersonation.

Kvale hit him with another dart, but El Moose didn't wait around for it to take effect. He scattered the crowd by heading north again.

The moose, surprisingly fleet-footed for such an ungainly-looking creature, crossed North College Road into a field.

He continued to elude officers until he reached the draw where the Perrine Coulee enters the canyon. From there he headed west - away from Kvale and his tranquilizer gun - to his evening resting place.

Occasionally a moose from eastern Idaho wanders into the South Hills, Smith said. This particular moose is probably the same one spotted near the Hansen Bridge last week, he said.

On Thursday, the Fish and Game office received calls about the moose from the Hansen Butte, Asgrow Seed and Meander Point before officials found him at Los Lagos, Smith said.

Although the tranquilizer darts were the same type and strength used frequently by Fish and Game officers in eastern Idaho, they weren't having much effect because the moose was so excited, he said.

Game officials were reluctant to increase the dosage for fear of harming the beast.

"We don't want to kill him," Smith said.

If he can be transplanted to the north, this moose will join an estimated 28or 29 others placed there over the past six or seven years.

Smith said he couldn't say if the moose would return to Twin Falls from the high country, saying moose are unpredictable critters.

"I think he'd be pretty glad to see mountains again," Smith said.

9/18/1992 © 2010, Times-News and Lee Enterprises Inc.