She was running a fever, so the goal was to cool her down with the wind on the highway as fast as possible.
The moose that's called the Crookston area home for several months was bound for a new home in northern Minnesota Monday afternoon, after being tranquilized in a field on Crookston's southern edge and loaded into a horse trailer.
Crookston Police Chief Tim Motherway told the Times Monday morning that Minnesota DNR personnel were converging on Crookston in the hopes of locating the moose, getting close enough to tranquilize it, and relocating it to Kittson County.
A little after 1 p.m. Monday, local officers and DNR personnel monitored the moose as it wandered along the edge of a field just to the southeast of CHS Mid-Valley Grain, off Highway 75 South. Several yards to the south of the yearling female moose, Crookston volunteer firefighter Trent Brekken and Crookston Police officer Nate Nelson rode in a four-wheeler to keep the moose from straying from the edge of the field. Meanwhile, another CPD officer and Minnesota DNR Wildlife Research Manager Lou Cornicelli got into position just to the north of the moose, shielded by tall grass and a tree line. Cornicelli told the Times he shot once and believed that he struck the moose with the dart, but it didn't embed in the animal and instead bounced off and onto the ground. So, he said, he shot a second time. The moose bolted, then trotted and then kept on walking to the east, before Cornicelli came up behind her and pulled on her from behind until she fell over.
The moose gradually made its way to Crookston from the Fisher area over the winter. To many, she became Crookston's unofficial mascot, of sorts, and everywhere she went in Crookston people followed, most of them with cameras. In the view of Crookston Police Chief Tim Motherway and local DNR officials, people were getting too comfortable around the moose and, mostly, the feeling was mutual, as the moose seemed fairly relaxed with an audience close by.
But with some people reportedly feeding the moose, Motherway and the DNR continued to caution residents that the moose was not a docile pet, but a wild animal that could injure or even kill someone who got too close. One recent afternoon in a backyard in Crookston's Evergreen Estates, Motherway witnessed how quickly the moose could get agitated, when she dropped her ears and took a few quick steps toward him as he and other officers tried to keep her from venturing onto Fisher Avenue as school was letting out at the high school.
In recent weeks, the CPD and DNR thought on multiple occasions that they had successfully ushered the moose out of town by making loud noises and literally using squad cars to keep her swiftly on the move into the country. But she kept coming back, and Motherway and DNR officials never ruled out the possibility of putting her down if she was determined to be a public safety hazard.
Public sentiment was certainly against that, and instead in favor of either leaving the animal alone or trying to relocate it. The latter solution was sought, and Cornicelli came up from St. Paul Monday to shoot the dart. He told the Times he'd tranquilized and relocated around 100 moose when he worked in Utah, but this was his first such experience in Minnesota.
Minnesota DNR Wildlife Veteran Erika Butler coordinated a health assessment of the animal as she lay in the field and was placed on a tarp and lifted into the horse trailer. Cornicelli took the moose's temperature and it was 106, around five degrees above normal. Buckets of water were brought in and the trailer was pulled into the shade. But when an injection designed to reverse the effects of the tranquilizer kicked in moments later and the moose stood up and thrashed around a bit in the trailer, Butler said her main interest was getting the moose out onto the highway, where the wind would hopefully cool her down.
Motherway had said previously that DNR officials figure that around half of the moose that are tranquilized and relocated don't survive.
Butler, who's studying declining moose numbers in northeastern Minnesota, fit the moose with a radio collar and a mortality implant transmitter, which was placed in the animal's mouth. It was supposed to eventually implant itself in the moose's reticulum, but it appeared that the moose may have spit out the transmitter and broke it before departing.
Ross Hier, the DNR's Crookston-based wildlife manager, accompanied the moose on its journey northward. Her destination is the 80,000 acre Caribou Wildlife Management Area in Kittson County, around 80 miles south of Canada. Butler told Hier that once they arrived he should observe the moose and make sure she hadn't suffered any significant injuries during the transport, such as an open fracture. If it was apparent she'd suffered a major injury, Butler instructed Hier to euthanize her.
"But she's up now and looking pretty strong," Butler said, motioning to the trailer. "We need to get some wind on her."