CARIBOU, Maine — Just as 2013 came to a close, a new resident decided to come into town to help ring in the new year.
And although the animal is similar in appearance to the namesake of the town, the Maine Warden Service and the Caribou Police Department are hoping that the moose hanging around the city will soon slip quietly out of town.
Caribou Police Officer Mark Gahagan said that the department has received complaints about the animal being in some people’s yards and had heard about a video posted on Facebook of local residents petting the animal as it lay in a snowbank in a Caribou neighborhood.
“We moved it out,” Gahagan said, “and then it would leave and then it would come back into a parking lot and lay down.”
He strongly discouraged people from interacting with the moose.
“They are taking their lives into their hands,” Gahagan said of the potential dangers of approaching such a large creature. “They have no idea what that animal is going to do. Just leave it alone and it will go back where it came from.”
Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, agreed.
“The best thing to remember is to look but not touch,” Rafferty said Tuesday afternoon. “A wild animal can do anything at any time. It can bite, it can kick, it can really hurt someone. It’s called wildlife for a reason. We don’t want people feeding it or touching it. The wardens will give anyone they see doing that a strong talking to.”
He said that the moose is believed to be a yearling and was first seen in the area around New Year’s Eve. Warden Ed Christie responded to the initial report.
“It appears to be healthy, and it was hanging out in that area and it got into a woman’s garage when the door was left open,” Rafferty said. “It could be lost and found its way into the area because all of the plowing has created pathways, or maybe its mother was taken during the moose hunt. We are asking people to leave it alone and let it wander back.”
Rafferty added that when an animal that is supposed to be on its own in the wild is fed and comforted by humans, it can become domesticated.
“It gets used to life and it gets a measure of comfort around people,” he said. “It becomes dependent on them, and that is what we don’t want, especially with a moose.”
Because the moose would be more comfortable around humans, Rafferty explained, it would make them more likely to get shot during hunting season. There also could be issues with the moose causing traffic accidents.
“Just watch from a distance,” he said. “That’s the best way to interact with wildlife.”