While many people were enjoying the countdown to Christmas, a Maine public broadcaster was pondering a moose mystery.
Jeffrey Mahaney, transmission manager at Maine Public, logged on to a camera feed Dec. 19 that was monitoring one of the station’s many towers. Several cameras keep an eye on the most remote sites, Mahaney said, and he often sees wildlife ambling about.
This time he spied a large bull moose wandering the road near the tower. Nothing exceptional there.
But the next day, the moose was still there. A few days later — same moose, pacing back and forth across the road.
Mahaney began to worry. “It’s abnormal for a moose to stay in a such a small area,” he said.
He checked again Dec. 27. Same moose, still pacing. Mahaney suspected a serious ailment such as brainworm, which can cause the animals to circle endlessly. He contacted a friend at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, who put him in touch with Lee Kantar, its top expert on moose and deer. Kantar agreed that the animal appeared to be in distress.
Mahaney knew what he had to do. He drove two hours to the far-flung site and snowshoed off-road to the tower site.
There, he saw through his binoculars what was troubling the moose: It was tightly tangled in abandoned telephone lines. “The wire was looped around his snout just like a horse harness,” Mahaney said.
The moose was tethered to an old telephone pole. Mahaney heard the pole cracking from the moose’s tugging.
Fortunately, the state wildlife agency was in the midst of an annual moose-tagging project, so biologists were able to get to Mahaney’s location with tranquilizers. They tranquilized the moose and removed the wires. The animal appeared healthy. A few minutes later the moose “wakes up, groggily looks at us and wanders off,” Mahaney said.
The group also discovered how the moose was able to survive: His tether was just long enough to allow it to forage. “All the bushes and trees within a 30-foot radius had been chewed off about 3 feet high,” Mahaney said.
A video of the moose rescue posted on the station’s Facebook page has drawn some 48,000 views. One commenter suggested that “we henceforth refer to Jeff ‘the moose man’ Mahaney, or perhaps just ‘Moose Mahaney.’”
Mahaney said he was just happy he could help. This isn’t the first time he’s encountered wildlife drama while servicing broadcasting towers. “Once I saw two dogs chase six deer over a cliff,” he said. “I was shocked. I just looked up, and they literally jumped off the cliff.”
He thinks he’ll know this moose if their paths ever cross again. The wire made deep cuts in the animal’s snout, Mahaney said.
“I suspect if he comes back, I’ll know by that crease on his nose,” he said. “That’ll be there for a while.”