Residents in Watertown and Belmont on Wednesday were startled by the sight of an adult female moose trotting along streets and sidewalks before heading into a wooded area.
The moose had wandered far from home, likely following water and grassy areas as it moved east through the night, according to a wildlife expert.
“Then in the morning, when all the human activity is going on, it probably gave the moose some pause," said Marion Larson, of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "Like, ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore.’”
Video of the moose shows it moving at a pretty impressive pace on suburban sidewalks, most likely after it was spooked by police cruisers and other vehicles, Larson said.
Although there are an estimated 1,200 moose in Massachusetts, a moose on the loose near Boston is a rarity. The last instance Larson could recall was in 1996, when one was spotted clomping through Cleveland Circle.
If everything goes well over the next day or so, the moose should naturally figure out a way to move back west on its own. In order for that to happen, Larson said, humans need to stay as far away as possible.
“Don’t go looking for it. Don’t go chasing after it,” Larson said. “We don’t need to raise the stress level and make it more confused and concerned.”
Moose are among the most dangerous animals humans can encounter. The largest animal in the deer family, moose can grow to more than 6 feet at the shoulder and weigh upwards of 1,200 pounds.
They prefer to leave humans alone, but if disturbed or threatened they can respond by charging. While fatalities are extremely rare, several people are attacked and injured by moose every year.
In the 1996 incident, according to an account in a 2001 issue of the Boston Globe, the adventurous moose “was finally discovered taking a comfortable afternoon nap alongside the Green Line” near the city’s western edge.
Larson said she would be surprised if the moose that trotted through the suburbs Wednesday chose to move closer to noisier, busier Boston instead of heading west. Still, it’s something wildlife experts have to prepare for just in case.
“That would be a very difficult situation, not that this is easy right now,” she said, adding, “As they say, never say never.”
Authorities said the animal was last seen near a wooded area in Belmont.
"Obviously this is a very unique situation, a moose in an environment like Watertown," Watertown Police Detective Lieutenant James O’Connor told the Boston Globe. "Definitely out of the ordinary."
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There have been no reports of damage caused by the moose.
To learn more about moose in urban environments, wildlife experts have put together this fact sheet.