Maine Wardens Urge Caution Around Moose and Deer

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In four separate instances on Monday, Judy and Rick Givens encountered moose standing on snowmobile trails between Millinocket and Jo-Mary Mountain.

Twice Mrs. Givens was frightened – and angry. Not with the moose, but with the snowmobilers riding on the trails from the opposite direction.

Mr. and Mrs. Givens had slowed their machines and waited for the moose to move, she said in a telephone call to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. But the snowmobilers approaching from the other side of the trail did not.

"They know it isn't safe, but they think it is fun to get as close as they can," said Mrs. Givens, who called to express her concern about the safety of moose on the trails. "They are stressing the moose. The moose are exhausted. They don't need this."

This season's high snow pack has been making it difficult for moose and deer to travel to and from winter yards. And last weekend's storm left a crusty coating of ice on the snow, adding to an already difficult task, according to IF&W Wildlife Biologist Lee Kantar.

"Deer, moose and other animals are looking for easier travel out of the deep snow to reduce energy expenditure and will be using the packed snowmobile trails, logging roads and other routes to make their treks," Kantar said. "Outdoor recreationists need to take caution in approaching wildlife in this situation."

In one of the instances Monday, Mrs. Givens said she didn't know if the moose was going to charge her or attempt to move out of the way. The other snowmobilers were moving closer to the animal.

"His head was down and his ears were pinned back," said Mrs. Givens, noting that the moose did leave the trail. "I didn't know what he was going to do."

According to the Maine Warden Service, it is against state law to use a motorized vehicle such as a snowmobile or an ATV to intentionally kill, injure or harass wild animals or birds. A person found in violation commits a Class E misdemeanor, which is subject to a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.

The Maine Warden Service and IF&W biologists are urging snowmobilers to be considerate of the plight of wildlife this winter, and to slow down and use caution if they see a deer or moose on the trails.

"It's always important to drive at a reasonable speed for conditions and give yourself time to slow down and stop if an obstacle such as a moose or a tree is on the path," said Maine Warden Service Captain Joel Wilkinson.

Kantar agrees.

"Snowmobilers and ATV riders need to watch their line of sight when traveling down trails," Kantar said. "They need to be able to see far out what is ahead of them and avoid potential collisions with animals and other objects."

He said people, too, need to be "very cautious" and avoid driving around a moose.

"They certainly should avoid doing this if it means that they have to closely approach an animal," Kantar said. "You don't know how a moose is going to react."

The Maine Warden Service and IF&W biologists are issuing the following tips on how to safely share the trails with wildlife:

  • * Maintain a fair distance from the animals.
  • * Give moose and deer ample space to move off the trails. They need an escape route.
  • * If you suddenly come upon an animal, slow down and stop. Do not move towards him/her or corner him/her.
  • * Do not approach deer or moose. The wildlife already is experiencing high stress levels and energy deficits due to severe winter conditions. Getting close to the animals will stress them more.

"If deer or moose are in the path, they need time to move away from people and look for a place to jump off the trail to gain access to the woods," Kantar said. "I think people need to critically evaluate the situation, back off, and give the animal time to move."