Max the Moose captures hearts of the Valley (with slideshow)
WALLAGRASS/SOLDIER POND – For the past three weeks, a young moose has taken up residence in the yard of Desjardins Logging, Inc. in Wallagrass, to the delight of many who live in the area.
The orphaned male moose, who the Desjardins grandchildren have aptly named Max, is less than a year old and, most likely, lost his mother during hunting season last fall, said one Desjardins family member.
Max's presence there has caused considerable curiosity among communities here, and he is now somewhat of a regional celebrity. You might say he's going viral. He's already been on nightly news reports on WAGM TV in Presque Isle, and on Facebook. There is also a steady stream of well-wishers and children driving by the Desjardins' garage to see Max, bring him food and take pictures of him, said James Desjardins, owner of Desjardins Logging, Inc., and now adopted 'dad' to Max.
(Photos from the slideshow below can be purchased through Zenfolio)
“We first noticed the moose 'hanging out' this winter when he'd been wandering around on the road between the garage and houses nearby,” said James. “He was going back and forth across Sly Brook Road looking for food and eating whatever he could find, and was eating the buds off our apple tree. We realized he was alone and were concerned that he might get 'bumped' by vehicles passing by,” he said.
Sly Brook Road is a busy road, especially in the summer, said James's son, John Desjardins, and even though the posted speed limit is 35 mph, people traveling faster might not be aware to watch for the moose.
So the family decided to help the moose any way they could. It was obvious to them that the moose was undernourished since he was so skinny, said James.
James bought some feed, placed it by the apple tree and spread some hay for Max to lay on to keep him warm in the bitter cold. And they noticed the moose had an injury (a cut or bite) above his right shoulder blade that was infected, so James has been cleaning it up with peroxide and rubbing an antibacterial balm on it to help heal it.
“It's starting to heal and looks much better than it did,” said James. “I don't think he would have survived without our help and food, and it got him out of the road – he probably would have gotten hit if we hadn't.”
The moose is on the mend and has gained 20 to 30 pounds since he's been eating better, and he has his own territory now to wander in, said James.
“Now he goes back and forth from his bed to the woods and trails behind the garage and doesn't wander into the road,” he said. “He knows the sound of my voice and truck and comes when he hears me. He's even visited my house twice (a short distance from the garage).
“We would like him to stay here on my land,” said James, who thinks that in the spring Max will respond to nature's urge to go into the woods on his own after the long winter.
Max already knows enough to eat branches in the woods, even though people feed him, he still goes to the woods to eat.
When the family first encountered him, Max was understandably skittish, said James.
“The first person in the family to get close to him and feed him was my son Jeremy,” said James.
Little by little, Max warmed up to the rest of the family and in particular, James, whom Max follows around like a puppy dog. And of course, the grandchildren fell in love with him instantly and named him Max. They even made a sign for him near his bedding, and all the grandchildren signed it.
“In the beginning, he was spooked by noises and people outside the family,” said James. “Now he just lays there and people come to see him and take pictures with him, especially children.”
In the past two weeks, there has been a steady stream of visitors. Some days, 80 to 90 people stop by to take pictures and appreciate this one-time opportunity to see an actual moose up close.
“Everyone has been very respectful and courteous,” said James. “Max loves salad, carrots, celery and cut apples. People have been good about bringing food for him, and they don't leave trash behind.”
Max has taken everyone's hearts by storm, said James.
“My wife, Elaine, worries more about the moose than me,” he said, with a laugh. “Since it's been so cold lately, she brought him a blanket to cover up with to keep warm at night, and, in the morning, he walks over to the woods.”
The Desjardins family are not the only people concerned with Max's future, he has a huge number of supporters in town.
“I think the community has done a wonderful job,” said Rachel and Keith Nadeau. “I think the food we've given him saved his life and fattened him up a little bit. I think that Max should stay here, we'll look out for him and take care of him (as a community).”
According to James and Elaine, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife plans to remove Max from the Desjardins' property and relocate him to an animal rehabilitation facility called the Maine Wildlife Park (formerly the Gray Animal Farm) in Southern Maine for 6 to 8 weeks before (or if) he is released back into the wild.
Wildlife biologists from the Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, in Ashland, were unavailable for comment at the time of this story. The Fiddlehead Focus will be updating information on Max's location and future plans as they become available.
In a WAGM interview with the IF&W about Max's situation, Richard Hoppe, regional wildlife biologist, stated that it's always best to leave wild animals alone and call a warden or the department of wildlife for assistance and guidance on an animal issues. He said that assisting or taming a wild animal isn't always in the animals best interest for future survivability.
(Slide show of Max above, photos can be purchased through Zenfolio)
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