A moose meanders through the region last week, drawing residents near Templeton and Manning into chilly temperatures to follow and photograph it.

Stray moose wandering the region a rare treat

DNR: Animal is protected; don’t shoot


TEMPLETON — With his young head held proudly high, he picked his way through the fields between Templeton and Manning on a frigid Friday morning.

Cars and trucks lined the highway to watch him as, undeterred, he roamed, a distinct black figure on otherwise unmarked white snow.
Frozen toes slid across ice and fell through packed snow, cold hands rolled down windows and chilled fingers snapped shutters as area residents took in the rare sight — a moose in the wild, in Iowa.

It’s possible the moose came from Minnesota, one of the closest states that has the animals, said Dan Pauley, a conservation officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources who covers Carroll and Greene counties.

If so, it’s likely from the northern part of the state, as moose don’t roam freely in southern Minnesota — so Western Iowa’s visitor has traveled a long way. DNR officials who received reports of the moose or saw it believe it was near Early, traveled toward Atlantic and then headed toward Templeton and Manning, Pauley said.

In the past, he added, moose who have ventured into Iowa have found their way home, although others have been illegally shot.

Pauley estimated the young bull is one or two years old, based on the size of his antlers. Those who saw the animal estimated he stood six or seven feet tall.

This isn’t the first time moose have been spotted in Iowa, but it’s unusual. The animals aren’t native to Iowa because they need marshy, lowland habitats, Pauley said.

“This is a rarity,” he said.

The DNR doesn’t take action when a moose is spotted in the area.

“We let it go, just let it roam and let people enjoy seeing it,” he said.

Sylvia and Dave Sporrer, who live near Templeton, were among several people who spent a few hours watching the moose Friday morning. They drove back and forth on one stretch of road south of Highway 141 several times as the moose roamed through fields in the area. At one point, it crossed the road right in front of them, clearing a fence and continuing on its way.

“It looked like it hopped the fence, but it had such long, dangling legs, it just stepped over it,” Sylvia said with a laugh.

It was less than 20 degrees out that morning, but that didn’t stop passers-by from rolling down their windows to try to snap pictures of the animal.

“Even semi trucks along the highway stopped and were watching it,” Dave said.

Although those watching the moose said their presence likely made him move around more than he would have otherwise, they noted that he never seemed intimidated.

“He never ran hard — he never was in any hurry,” Dave said.

The couple said seeing the animal in the wild in Iowa was likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“We love seeing wildlife,” Sylvia said. “When I was a little kid, it was amazing thing to see a deer, and now that’s a normal experience. To see a moose — we’ll probably never see one out in the wild again.”

Moose are protected in Iowa and can’t be hunted, Pauley said.

“I really enjoyed watching him, and I think the public really enjoyed watching him,” Pauley said. “I personally think it’s really neat that the Iowa people get to see a moose in the wild; that’s something unusual, and they may never get that opportunity again.

“It’s really cool. I really hope nobody causes it any harm.”

A hunter who shoots and kills one could be fined more than $3,000, Pauley said. It’s also possible they could lose hunting privileges for at least a year.

He added that other than posing the same threat to cars on the road that deer would, moose typically aren’t dangerous animals and wouldn’t threaten people.

It’s unusual for a moose to travel this far, and although some wondered if an illness had caused the animal to become disoriented and wander into the state, it’s possible he simply got lost, Pauley said.

“He might just be a young moose who was looking for females in the fall who went south, got into Iowa and didn’t know his way back,” he said.

In the meantime, the visiting animal has been an interesting diversion for those braving the cold.

“It’s brought so much joy to people watching it,” Sylvia said. “I hope nobody shoots it or that it doesn’t get hit on the road.”

They haven’t heard of anyone seeing the animal since Saturday.

“I’m kinda worried about him,” Sylvia added. “It was cold this weekend — I hope the moose was OK.”

Although, she noted with a laugh, if he’s from up north, he’s used to it.

“Maybe he’s like the rest of us and just wanted to go south for the winter,” she said. “That’s why he came here — he’s heading south toward Florida.”

But they hope he turns around.

“I feel sorry for it,” Pauley said. “It’s gotta be lonely — there are no other moose in Iowa. I hope he finds his way back home.”

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