In 20 years working in the cable and satellite TV business, Darren McGovern has seen a lot.
“I have seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst,” the Portland man said Friday. “This, by far, is one of my most memorable experiences.”
This, is the moose calf that McGovern met on a recent trip to Saddleback Maine in Rangeley.
McGovern, the director of sales and marketing for Windham-based Maine Link Communications, said he was installing and updating one of the Saddleback condominium complexes with DishNetwork when he had an unexpected visitor.
“She just came walking around the corner of one of the buildings,” McGovern said. “We were about 30 feet away. It looked at us and then walked right onto the front porch of one of the condo complexes.”
According to a press release that Saddleback officials issued on Thursday, that moose had become an unofficial resident of Saddleback back in October. Resort staffers had taken to calling her “South Branch Suzie” because she was most frequently seen in the South Branch skiing area.
In the release, Jenn Farmer, wife of Saddleback general manager Chris Farmer, said people first thought that Suzie’s visits would be temporary.
“We always saw Suzie alone but assumed her mama was nearby,” Farmer said. “It became apparent that she was on her own when people were finding her standing in the doorways of the condos looking for shelter.”
McGovern said that Suzie certainly seemed to know her way around Saddleback, and didn’t mind being around people.
After climbing up onto the condo porch during McGovern’s visit, she was content to stand there as he went about his business.
“Her whole body was literally covering the guy’s door. And the guy literally had to turn sideways and kind of shimmy his way past the moose [to get to his truck],” McGovern said. “The guy’s back was touching the building and his front was touching the side of the moose, just to get by her. It didn’t budge.”
The condo owner repeated the procedure to get back inside after retrieving things from his truck, McGovern said.
The Saddleback representative who was working with McGovern asked the condo owner if he had been feeding Suzie, and found out he hadn’t.
“The guy says, ‘No, not at all. But the moose has been coming up on the porch and looking through the windows,’” McGovern said.
“At that point, when the guy went back inside, I just gently walked up and held out my hand and the moose let me pet her,” McGovern said. “Actually, she was very, very affectionate.”
And after that, McGovern found he had a tour guide for the rest of his trip to Saddleback.
“For the next several hours — we were in and out of both of those buildings a whole bunch — every time I turned around, that moose was there waiting for me, and followed me for like the next two hours,” McGovern said.
A quick disclaimer: State wildlife officials often warn folks not to approach wild animals, and say that being overly friendly or feeding wild critters acclimates them to humans and can put both people and the animals at risk.
With that said, it’s understandably difficult to ignore the attention of a friendly little moose.
At Saddleback, thanks in part to her outgoing nature and her frequent visits, Suzie became a sensation.
Heck, she even has her own Facebook page (search for “South Branch Suzie).
But eventually, Saddleback staffers realized they had a bit of a problem.
Suzie started hitting the slopes without a lift pass.
On Monday, Saddleback’s mountain manager heard word that Suzie was out on the trails at night and was almost hit by a groomer.
“That’s when we decided something had to be done,” Jenn Farmer said in the release. “A call was made to the wonderful people at D.E.W. Animal Kingdom and they pointed me in the right direction. I finally contacted Dawn Brown at Second Chance Wildlife Inc. in New Sharon.”
Brown, along with Maine Game Warden Reggie Hammond and wildlife biologist Chuck Halsey teamed up with Saddleback staff to capture and transport Suzie to Second Chance Wildlife on Thursday.
McGovern said his experience at Saddleback was special.
“I’ve seen moose before, but nothing like that,” he said. “I’ve most certainly never petted a moose.”
And he was glad to hear that his “tour guide” had found a safer home for the winter.
“I’m glad that somebody has done something because I was afraid that it would get hit by a vehicle or a skier would hit it and they’d both get hurt.”