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Wildlife officials stand by plan to let moose leave Billings 'on its own'

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Posted at 1:45 PM, Nov 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-11 15:51:00-05

BILLINGS - At last check, the Billings moose is still hanging around town, and after a month, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) is still choosing to let the animal decide to leave on its own.

“We're making sure the moose isn't causing a serious threat to public safety or personal property. That's really the motivating factor to move forward on your location,” said Chrissy Webb with FWP.

Webb says the agency doesn’t have a state policy or protocol for when it’s time to move an animal from an urban setting.

She also says each decision is on a case-by-case basis.

In 2021, Bozeman wildlife officials chose to tranquilize a bull moose and move it from a parking lot near a Target store.

It took eight people to load him up.

And In 2019, Missoula game wardens moved a cow moose and her calf found wandering around downtown.

They closed down streets as a safety precaution.

Each relocation was successful.

Webb admits the Billings moose is likely stressed, which is why he may have shed his antlers earlier than usual.

The animal also appeared to have suffered a minor injury recently.

And the large animal is living among cars and people, but Webb says FWP is not liable if he does become aggressive.

“No one is actually liable for what the moose may do,” she said. “And so that's why we're really trying to, you know, pound into the people how to responsibly act knowing that there is a wild animal around”

Dave Pauli, with the Humane Society of the United States, is giving kudos to FWP for how they’re handling the situation

“Often times there's public pressure to just get in there and get that animal. But sometimes that's the riskiest thing you can do,” he said.

He says he’s also perplexed as to why the animal has stuck around for so long, but he favors FWP’s plan to go slow.

“It may at some point need a nudge,” he said. “But then that has to be a well-planned controlled nudge.”

Webb said for now the moose can remain loose within the state's largest city.

“He has access to food and water. Again, it's a wild animal. We are hoping that that injury heals and that he's able to leave town,” she said.