The moose that roamed for two days in heavily populated areas in South Portland and Scarborough was tranquilized Wednesday afternoon near Surfsite Road in South Portland. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

It’s a classic case of looking for love in all the wrong places.

A young bull moose that has been wandering around Scarborough and South Portland for the past two days – walking through school grounds, down city streets and along the beach – was finally captured Wednesday evening in a wooded area near the Southern Maine Community College campus in South Portland.

“Right now is the breeding season and that can lead towards moose, especially bulls, moving quite a bit,” said Lee Kantar, the state’s moose biologist.

Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service, said state wildlife biologists tranquilized the moose in a wooded area near a home on Surfsite Road, a street that runs behind the college’s athletic center. The animal was located around 5 p.m., MacDonald said.

“We’ve tranquilized the moose. It’s on the ground,” MacDonald said in a brief telephone interview from the scene.

MacDonald said the animal appeared to be in fairly good health. The moose spent most of the day wandering through the neighborhood between Broadway, Preble Street and Fort Road. South Portland police kept tabs on the animal throughout the day making sure it did not pose a danger to itself or curious onlookers.

The moose on the loose Wednesday on Preble Street in the Willard Beach neighborhood of South Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“It’s going to be moved to a safer environment” in an area about one hour outside the city, MacDonald said without specifying where.

Kantar, who estimated that the young bull weighed more than 600 pounds, said it is not uncommon for a moose to wander into a heavily populated suburban area.

“It happens. There is a tendency for younger moose to wander into new places and get turned around,” Kantar said in an email, noting that he had to respond to a situation involving a young bull moose that ended up at the Bangor International Airport last week.

Kantar said moose movement in areas out of their natural habitat can be influenced by age as well. During the early summer months, young moose or yearlings are often driven away by their mother when a new calf arrives. However, Kantar said the bull’s arrival in South Portland was most likely driven by mating season.

South Portland Police Lt. Thomas Simonds said the moose was first spotted Wednesday morning on Willard Beach. South Portland police officers tailed the moose as it wandered through the city Wednesday.

“We’ve been keeping tabs on it since 6:30 this morning,” Simonds said Wednesday afternoon.

Simonds said the start of the state’s moose hunting season on Sept. 28 likely had nothing to do with the moose ending up in a heavily populated suburban area. State biologists told Simonds that it is not uncommon for a moose to travel up to 100 miles from its natural habitat searching for a mate at this time of year.

When the biologists arrived at Surfsite Road, police led them to a small wooded area behind a home where the moose was resting. The decision was then made to tranquilize the moose and relocate it.

“We were concerned for the welfare of the moose. He was starting to get stressed out,” Simonds said. “We tried to create a safe space for the moose, but it was hard due to an intense level of public interest. The sheer volume of curiosity seekers strained our resources.”

State wildlife biologists and police get ready to leave after getting the moose onto a trailer after state wildlife biologists tranquilized it near Surfsite Road in South Portland on Wednesday. The moose was to be moved to a safer area about a hour outside Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The moose’s wanderings triggered a flurry of social media posts about sightings and prompted police to monitor its whereabouts.

On Wednesday morning, police blocked traffic and kept onlookers at a distance in an effort to keep people and the animal safe and encourage it to return to its natural environment. Moose can become aggressive when approached by humans or pets, police said.

Preble Street resident Janine Leighton took a photograph of the moose from her car. Leighton said she has never seen a moose in her neighborhood before. She described the animal as being “big.”

“It was pretty awesome, but on the flip side, I was worried about the moose. He’s alone and he could be scared,” Leighton said.

The Maine Warden Service was prepared Wednesday morning to tranquilize the animal if the situation became unsafe for it or the public.

“Should it get into a situation where it’s an imminent threat, like a high-speed interstate, we’re on call and available,” MacDonald said earlier in the day.

Although the public reacted with surprise at the sight of the moose meandering through the city, MacDonald said other sightings were reported in Scarborough and Freeport last week. Most of the moose that people see are young, about 1 to 2 years old, he said, and tend to cover a lot of territory.

The moose has been appearing in high-visibility locations at least since Monday, when Scarborough police said the animal walked through the town’s municipal campus. Authorities are fairly certain that the moose that was spotted in Scarborough is the same one that wound up in South Portland.

“He checked out the library and basketball and tennis courts before heading over to the track area and getting caught in the bleachers,” a post on the police department’s Facebook page said. “Officers were able to corral him out and back into the woods behind the ice rink.”

South Portland police said Tuesday that the moose was seen around Highland Avenue, on the grounds of the city’s public works facility and in the woods by Sawyer Road near Cape Elizabeth. By Wednesday morning, the moose made its way across Willard Beach and onto the campus of Southern Maine Community College, where it lay down near a dormitory, drawing onlookers and forcing students to reroute their path to class.

Earlier in the morning, Cape Elizabeth resident Kevin Phelan was trying to find a parking space near Scratch Bakery in the Willard Beach neighborhood of South Portland when he saw the moose – the first he’d ever seen – crossing the road and heading into a driveway. “It was almost surreal,” said Phelan, who wondered if he was dreaming and shot a short video for proof.

He said the whole situation was bizarre. “It’s raining, hot, sunny, power lines are down, and there’s a moose.”

MacDonald emphasized the need for the public to stay as far away from the moose as possible and also keep away dogs and drones, both of which were  seen near the moose.

“We’re asking people to leave it alone and not make it worse,” MacDonald said. “It’s kind of neat really, in light of everything that’s going on. It’s a nice Maine thing.”

The moose on the campus of Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. Photo by Aimsel Ponti


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