Home Conservation Moose On the Move in Connecticut

Moose On the Move in Connecticut

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From January 1 to mid-June 2013, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Division recorded 67 reports of moose via e-mail, phone, and an online moose reporting system. In comparison, the Division received about the same number of reports in 2007 for the entire year (the online reporting system was not operational then). Also that year, four moose were struck by a motor vehicle during spring and two were euthanized due to public safety concerns. Similarly, in spring 2013, four moose were struck by motor vehicles in Harwinton, Simsbury, Bolton, and Goshen.

So why is there such an increase in moose activity during spring? Each spring, as female moose prepare to give birth, they drive off the previous year’s offspring, although the offspring may remain in close proximity to their mother into the second year of life. These yearling and two-year-old moose spend much of the spring wandering in search of their own home range area to inhabit. Dispersal distances exceeding 100 miles have been recorded in some parts of the country. The total distance dispersing moose travel in Connecticut is unclear, but distances of three to five miles per day are not uncommon, based on limited data collected by the Wildlife Division. These dispersals occur in random directions and moose often pass through areas that could be considered relatively suitable habitat for Connecticut. Why moose travel where they do cannot be explained, but it may be a function of landscape characteristics. Moose dispersing south through Connecticut often end up becoming victims of a moose/vehicle accident due to the abundance of roads and motor vehicle traffic. During spring when moose dispersal occurs, motorists should exercise extreme caution, especially at dusk and dawn when moose are most active. Following are some examples of movement patterns of dispersing moose recorded through public sightings in Connecticut.

Moose Movement Patterns

Westbrook: In May 1998, a young female moose was first observed in the town of Eastford, in northeastern Connecticut. Over an eight-day period, the moose traveled at least 40 miles, passing through the towns of Scotland, Lebanon, Franklin, Bozrah, and Montville. On June 5, the cow moose was hit and killed by a motorist traveling on Interstate 95 in Westbrook. The moose had traveled at least 56 miles in 11 days. The vehicle was totaled and the passengers sustained non-life-threatening injuries. A physical examination of the moose indicated that she was a two-year old female that sustained internal injuries and three broken legs.

Old Lyme: On June 5, 2004, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife tranquilized a young female moose 30 miles outside of Boston in the town of Clinton. The moose was in a heavily populated area and was relocated near the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border in the town of Winchendon. A radio-collar and ear tags were attached to the moose so that its movements could be monitored. In late June, about three weeks after its release in Winchendon, the moose was seen just north of the Connecticut border in the town of Monson, MA. Over a 17-day period (June 25–July 11), the moose was observed traveling southward in Connecticut through the towns of Stafford, Coventry, Columbia, Lebanon, Montville, and Old Lyme. From June 5 to July 11, the moose traveled over 100 miles from the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border to Old Lyme along the southern Connecticut coastline.

The moose appeared to temporarily settle down in a three-square mile area between Route 1 and I-95. Moose have large home ranges (about 10 square miles) and this moose, in particular, demonstrated a tendency to wander great distances. These facts, coupled with its close proximity to a major highway, resulted in the decision to relocate the moose to a more suitable location. The Department successfully immobilized the moose and relocated it to northwest Connecticut.

New Canaan: In June 2007, the Wildlife Division received reports of a moose moving in a southerly direction. Sightings occurred from Watertown, Southbury, and Easton over a two-day period (10 miles per day). The Department activated its response team to attempt to tranquilize and relocate the wandering moose before it posed a public safety hazard. On June 5, the Department followed up on reports of moose sightings in Norwalk, Darien, Stamford, and New Canaan, looking for an opportunity to tranquilize the wandering moose. Search efforts were terminated when EnCon Police received a report that the moose had been hit by a vehicle on the Merritt Parkway in New Canaan. The driver of the vehicle received serious injuries and the injured moose was euthanized. Tragically, the driver died from crash-related complications the following week.

New Britain: In May 2009, website reports indicated there was an active moose in central Connecticut. Sightings occurred in Avon, Simsbury, Farmington, and New Britain over a two-week period. The Department activated its response team to attempt to tranquilize and relocate the wandering moose before it posed a public safety hazard. On May 21, the Department followed up on reports of moose sightings in New Britain, looking for an opportunity to tranquilize the wandering moose. Search efforts were terminated, but resumed the following day when additional reports were received. Staff successfully immobilized the moose and relocated it to northeastern Connecticut. The moose was found dead several days later, likely due to heat stress caused by the heat wave the state was experiencing during the time of capture.

Marlborough: In May 2010, residents reported a young female moose in Ellington. Over the next three weeks, sightings occurred in Tolland, Bolton, Hebron, and Colchester. The moose was observed the following week wandering through a neighborhood in Marlborough. The Department investigated the reports and located tracks; however, the moose appeared to have taken residence in and around Salmon River State Forest and was not relocated.

Plainville: In May 2012, residents reported a moose in Avon. A month later, several reports were received from Farmington and Plainville. The male moose entered a highly urbanized area where it could easily be immobilized. The moose was fitted with a GPS/VHF collar and ear tags and relocated near the Barkhamsted/Hartland line. In late September, the moose was observed traveling through New Hartford, Canton, Burlington, Harwinton, Thomaston, Litchfield, Morris, Bethlehem, Roxbury, Bridgewater, and New Milford. It then proceeded to travel back north through Goshen and Cornwall. In May through June 2013, the same moose was observed on multiple occasions in Granby.

Simsbury: In May 2013, residents reported a moose in Canton and Simsbury. Over the next couple of weeks, several reports were received from Farmington and West Hartford. The moose then entered a highly urbanized area in Hartford between St. Francis Hospital and Route 84. Police officers were able to redirect the moose back north. After traveling back through Avon and into Simsbury, it was struck by a motor vehicle at the end of May, causing substantial damage to the vehicle. The moose continued into the woods and its fate is unknown.

Bolton: In May 2013, residents reported a moose in Stafford. Over the next few days, several reports were received from Tolland and Vernon. DEEP EnCon Police Officers, who were responding to concerns about the moose along Interstate 84, found that it had gone under the highway through an underpass. From there, the moose continued to travel into Manchester. Additional efforts were made to locate the animal, until it entered a large forested block of land. The following morning, the moose was struck and killed on Route 384 in Bolton.

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