(Crouseville, ME) The children’s book “I Met a Moose in Maine One Day” by Ed Shankman chronicles the adventures of a young Mainer and his outlandish outings with a moose as they visit many towns and cities around the state. Most of it couldn’t really happen. But this next tale is the real-life story of an Aroostook County man and his neighbors as they enjoyed the presence of a moose for several months, then rallied together earlier this week to try and save her.
“The baby moose first showed up in June last summer with her mother staying close by.” Mike Doak, 36 of Crouseville, said he saw both the calf and mama moose together several times. The end of September was the last time he saw the adult moose. “I hadn’t heard of anyone shootin’ a moose anywhere near the house during huntin’ season.” Crouseville is a tight knit community and word would’ve traveled fast. It’s unknown why the mother and baby split up.
With the baby moose making frequent appearances on his property Doak felt comfortable enough to reach out and touch her when she showed up Christmas Eve night. “I went out to have a cigarette. It was dark out and I was out there havin’ a smoke and…yah hear somethin’ movin’ behind yah and…turned around and looked and she was, yah know…12 feet behind me. She walked right up to me.”
Doak said she came back to visit on Christmas Day. He broke off a bough to feed her. His wife Samantha warned he and their 10-year-old son not to get attached.
No one was alarmed in the beginning when the calf started showing up alone. “She wasn’t that small anymore,” he said about the calf. Folks in the area also assumed the moose was hanging around because a neighbor feeds the deer. “But then she wasn’t even eatin’ that,” Doak commented.
“I figured somethin’ was up after she stuck around for about 5 days or so,” he continued. “When you’d go outside, like to feed the deer she’d follow you right around feedin’ the deer and everything else and… the deer would come out and she’d go runnin’ over to ’em. It’s almost just like she was lonely.”
No one had to call game wardens to make them aware of the moose. There are a few wardens who drive Route 164 through Crouseville and noticed the moose over time. Doak said the wardens would slow down to observe the calf when it was in sight. Someone did finally call wardens on Friday, January 5th when the moose was in the road. Neighbors were able to usher her onto the nearby ATV trail, “hopin’ she’d hit the trail and go,” Doak said. But she didn’t.
The moose wandered around Crouseville last Saturday 1/06/18.
Sunday, January 7th on his way to visit his parents who live nearby Doak looked down the ATV trail and saw the moose walking toward his parents’ house. He sat and waited to make sure the calf didn’t go out into the road. “She came right up to the truck and stuck her head by the window. I rolled down the window and petted her and…I drove up to my parents and she followed me.”
Game warden Ed Christie stopped in to do a preliminary evaluation on the moose. “Right then he thought somethin’ was goin’ on. He [Christie] talked to a biologist and all that.” Christie asked the family to try to keep people away from the moose.
Doak and his family cut down a spruce tree hoping that would keep her there and prevent her from wandering around the neighborhood. “She liked to eat spruce trees.” But the next day she was back at the neighbors house.
Monday morning before Doak drove his son to school the neighbor showed up to ask for help. “They said ‘she’s stuck in the ditch, we can’t just leave her there.’ And I told him I just had to bring the kid up to school and then I’d come help him dig ‘er out.”
“This last storm pretty much hampered her on trudgin’ through the woods on her own. Her legs were so short.” Winter storm Grayson dumped 18″ on the region four days prior the moose getting stuck, bringing the snow depth to roughly 40 inches. “She was stuck in about 3 to 3-and-a-half feet of snow.”
When Doak returned to the scene about 10 minutes later a team of people had already dug out the moose. “It was more or less just people who were drivin’ by. There was the neighbor right next door that feeds the deer. When we come back by the path was dug out by about 9 or 10 passersby…people on their way home or to work or wherever.”
Doak drove home to get a tote sled then returned to the scene. The moose was lifted into the sled then hauled to his house where a game warden arrived to evaluate the moose. “The warden said that she probably had lungworm then. You could hear the fluid in her lungs and everything.” The warden advised Doak and his wife Samantha to keep an eye on the moose for the day and call if there was no improvement. Samantha had helped dig out the moose and continued to sit with her most of the day hoping she would recover. It turns out she was the person in the family who became the most attached.
Around 5 o’clock that evening they called the warden to come back. Doak said, “We told him she was barely breathin’ and her eyes were rollin’ around in her head.” The warden arrived and after one final evaluation and previously consulting a biologist, the moose was discharged.
Doak reiterates this was not a quick decision by game wardens. A few evaluations over the course of several days leading up to Monday revealed signs of distress and ailment in the moose. Everyone hoped for the best, but in the end there was nothing anyone could have done to save the calf.
Samantha as well as their 10-year old son took it pretty hard. “Jacob was devastated. I mean, it was like a little dog runnin’ around the house,” Doak said.
Barbetta Ann Bowker Turner, who took photos during the rescue attempt on Monday, said the moose was worth the effort.