The MSN online video was interesting, but the Buzzvideo description was hilarious: “This is the bizarre moment a herd of moose trotted through a residential zone in… Seaside, Oregon.”
Why hilarious? Moose are rather solitary -- and the animals in the herd on the video were elk.
I would’ve thought every school child in North America learned what a moose is. But perhaps not. Or maybe the person titling the piece was viewing the video on a very tiny screen.
Either way, the animals were clearly not moose.
I judged the video and caption funny enough that I posted the link to the video on one of my Facebook pages, which garnered some interesting comments.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife website, there are a few moose in Oregon, in the far northeastern corner, in the Blue Mountains. But they’re not on the Oregon Coast.
At least moose aren’t on the Oregon Coast now. Mike Gray, with the Charleston office of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, shared detailed sources of information about the moose that were introduced to Tahkenitch Lake in the 1920s. Howard Crombie, a local “semi-retired” biologist, also weighed in with supporting historical reports.
According to details from the September 1926 issue of The Oregon Sportsman magazine, republished in Oregon Wildlife in February 1976, five young moose, three females and two males, were released on Tahkenitch Lake in 1922.
Originally captured in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula as very young calves, the moose were reared by human hand. From Alaska, the calves were sent to San Francisco, then to Portland for exhibition in a zoo. (Six animals were captured: one of the males was destroyed en route when he broke his leg aboard ship.)
Between the hand-rearing and the extended attention by humans, the calves became rather tame. Nonetheless, after being fed by Deputy State Game Warden Art Fish their first winter, the moose seemed to establish themselves around the lake. By then the young moose were an imposing 6’ tall at the shoulder.
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Late that September, a homesteader on Bear Creek awoke to find a bull moose with a broken leg standing in his front yard. Game Warden Fish was summoned, and he and a veterinarian from Coquille lassoed the moose and set the leg, putting it in a cast.
A month later the young bull fell while “trying to stand on one hind leg and eat hay off the top of a hay mow” and rebroke the leg. The moose was recaptured, the leg was reset, and the moose apparently settled in on the homesteader’s ranch, dining on the farmer’s crops as well as local native shrubs.
Well-accustomed to people, the moose planted in the area “frequently [paid] the school children a visit at the Ada school house,” and one of the cows was seen teaching her calf how to jump fences.
While a total of four calves were reported in two years, the herd lost one of the original females when she was knocked off a railroad trestle; another original adult was shot for being a pest, leaving seven moose at Tahkenitch.
Although the moose seemed to be making themselves at home in the wildlands and farms around Tahkenitch Lake, their numbers dwindled. By late fall 1927 (as reported in a December 1939 story in The Oregonian), only one lonely bull moose was left, calling “across Tahkenitch, across Siltcoos, and never an answer was bawled back to him. So far as he knew, he was the last moose in the world.”
That last, lonesome moose continued to frequent farms and pastures and yards, causing enough concern for human safety that the people would pepper him with birdshot to scare him off. He eventually received a charge of birdshot in the face and was blinded, sometime between 1927 and 1931.
The blind bull stumbled into the woods, where he was trapped between two fallen logs. Game Warden Fish finally located the wounded animal there and “ended its suffering.”
So, yes, there were a handful of (semi-tame) moose on the Oregon Coast -- but only from 1922 to 1927-‘31, at Tahkenitch Lake: not this year, and not in Seaside.