CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- A wandering moose is continuing a journey through Iowa and one witness made the latest sighting just east of Cedar Rapids on Thursday.
Doug Klinger said he was heading east on Mt. Vernon Road when he glanced up to see a moose about 13 rows deep into a cornfield at the side of the road. He said the sighting was just across the street from the Lighthouse Inn at about 7:45 a.m. on Thursday morning. Unfortunately for Klinger, his cell phone was dead and he couldn't get a picture.
"It was huge and darkdark brown and bigger than an elk. It had whatever that hangs down underneath. I knew right away it was a moose," Klinger said.
But wildlife biologists say they don't need another photograph as proof this time, because this is undoubtedly the same moose they've track through Iowa for more than a month.
Vince Evelsizer, a wetland biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in Clear Lake, said the first report of a moose heading south in the state came to the DNR from someone in Stacyville in Mitchell County near the Minnesota border. The DNR couldn't confirm that sighting. But it was followed quickly by confirmed reports, and photos, from Protivin in Howard County, Fairbank in Buchanan County, Troy Mills in Linn County and finally the latest Thursday morning just east of Cedar Rapids.
Evelsizer said moose typically live in far northern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. But an occasional sighting in Iowa happens once every five or six years. Juvenile male moose, identified by the small set of antlers in the photos, often are kicked out of normal territories by larger males and begin wandering to find a new territory. However, a moose making it this far is often infected by a brain worm that results from contact with whitetail deer. The infected moose loses the sense of direction and usually heads south hundreds of miles from normal territory. The brain worm will eventually kill the animal.
Tim Thompson, a DNR wildlife biologist based in Iowa City, can recall other cases of wandering moose that drifted all the way through Iowa to Missouri. He warns people out in the woods to be careful because the large animals can occasionally be more aggressive than the usual deer encountered outdoors.
"It's just a sporadic thingwe may get them every five or six years but sometimes we get more than one a year," Thompson said.
With thousands of Iowa hunters heading outdoors for the start of shotgun deer season Saturday, Thompson said it's also important to remember that moose are a protected species in Iowa. Anyone who shoots a moose would face a hefty fine.
"You'll be fined severely and pay liquidated damages. So it's not a good thing to shoot itkeep your distance, enjoy it and let it go by," Thompson said.