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Police capture a moose on the loose Wednesday in downtown Easthampton

  • The moose, tagged with a sedation dart behind its right shoulder, made a couple of laps around the Center School playground in the four minutes it took for the drug to bring it down.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The moose, tagged with a sedation dart behind its right shoulder, made a couple of laps around the Center School playground in the four minutes it took for the drug to bring it down.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • After the moose was shot with a sedative, officials, including those from the state Environmental Police, left, and Easthampton Police played a game of "cat and mouse" with the animal to keep it out of the playground during the four minutes it took for the drug to bring it down. The moose was immobilized so that it could be transported and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    After the moose was shot with a sedative, officials, including those from the state Environmental Police, left, and Easthampton Police played a game of "cat and mouse" with the animal to keep it out of the playground during the four minutes it took for the drug to bring it down. The moose was immobilized so that it could be transported and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • At one point more than 80 spectactors had gathered on School street in Easthampton Wednesday morning to watch a female yearling moose corralled within the confines of the Center School playground for over an hour. Using a dart gun fitted with the sedative Xylazine, Massachusetts Environmental Police were able to immobilize the animal by 11 a.m. so that it could be lifted into a pickup truck and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    At one point more than 80 spectactors had gathered on School street in Easthampton Wednesday morning to watch a female yearling moose corralled within the confines of the Center School playground for over an hour. Using a dart gun fitted with the sedative Xylazine, Massachusetts Environmental Police were able to immobilize the animal by 11 a.m. so that it could be lifted into a pickup truck and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton mayor Michael Tautznik pours water over the head and back of a sedated female yearling moose that had wandered into Easthampton Wednesday morning. The animal was later released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton mayor Michael Tautznik pours water over the head and back of a sedated female yearling moose that had wandered into Easthampton Wednesday morning. The animal was later released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton mayor Michael Tautznik was tasked with holding a towel over the eyes of the moose which, though sedated, was still cognizant of its surroundings.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton mayor Michael Tautznik was tasked with holding a towel over the eyes of the moose which, though sedated, was still cognizant of its surroundings.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The ears of a female yearling moose project from the bed of a Massachusetts Environmental Police truck in Easthampton Wednesday morning as officials prepare to take the sedated animal to the Huntington/Westhampton town line for release.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The ears of a female yearling moose project from the bed of a Massachusetts Environmental Police truck in Easthampton Wednesday morning as officials prepare to take the sedated animal to the Huntington/Westhampton town line for release.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A female yearling moose frolics in the Center School playground in Easthampton Wednesday morning before being sedated by Massachusetts Environmental Police and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A female yearling moose frolics in the Center School playground in Easthampton Wednesday morning before being sedated by Massachusetts Environmental Police and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The moose, tagged with a sedation dart behind its right shoulder, made a couple of laps around the Center School playground in the four minutes it took for the drug to bring it down.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • After the moose was shot with a sedative, officials, including those from the state Environmental Police, left, and Easthampton Police played a game of "cat and mouse" with the animal to keep it out of the playground during the four minutes it took for the drug to bring it down. The moose was immobilized so that it could be transported and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • At one point more than 80 spectactors had gathered on School street in Easthampton Wednesday morning to watch a female yearling moose corralled within the confines of the Center School playground for over an hour. Using a dart gun fitted with the sedative Xylazine, Massachusetts Environmental Police were able to immobilize the animal by 11 a.m. so that it could be lifted into a pickup truck and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton mayor Michael Tautznik pours water over the head and back of a sedated female yearling moose that had wandered into Easthampton Wednesday morning. The animal was later released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton mayor Michael Tautznik was tasked with holding a towel over the eyes of the moose which, though sedated, was still cognizant of its surroundings.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The ears of a female yearling moose project from the bed of a Massachusetts Environmental Police truck in Easthampton Wednesday morning as officials prepare to take the sedated animal to the Huntington/Westhampton town line for release.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A female yearling moose frolics in the Center School playground in Easthampton Wednesday morning before being sedated by Massachusetts Environmental Police and released near the Huntington/Westhampton town line.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Keefe, who works for Aaron Towing and Recovery, was part of a local wildlife drama that played out over two-plus hours in the school parking lot.

A young female moose that had been spotted the day before on Everett Street was seen running down the center of Union Street around 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to Police Chief Bruce McMahon.

“It’s amazing it didn’t get run over,” said McMahon, whose officers were joined at the scene by members of the Fire Department and officers from the state Environmental Police and Fisheries and Wildlife Division.

Police managed to corral the animal, which McMahon estimated was about 1½ years old, weighing from 500 to 800 pounds, into the fenced-in parking area behind the school. There, they waited — along with dozens of curious onlookers — for the arrival of an officer with a tranquilizer gun.

Aaron Towing was called to provide a flatbed to help move the moose into an Environmental Police pickup truck for transport to a wooded area in Huntington.

It was Keefe’s first moose call.

“I don’t think there will be any problem, besides her waking up,” he said, as he watched the dusty brown animal poking her head out of some bushes along the border of the school parking lot. “There’s never a dull moment in towing.”

Keefe’s co-worker, Giles LaPlante, was a little more experienced in the moose-moving business.

“This is my third one but the last I one I did had got hit by a car,” he said. “Getting her on the truck will be the hardest. They can weigh up to 1,500 pounds.”

Environmental Police Officer Jon Plassmann, who had arrived at Center School just after 9 a.m., said his department deals with more calls about bears than moose during the spring and summer. Still, “it’s not unheard of,” for a moose to be loose in a densely populated area, he said.

Containing the moose after she was hit with a tranquilizer dart was what concerned Plassmann the most. “Once we administer a dart it becomes a veterinary operation,” he said. “You have to position the animal carefully so it can breathe and they are still cognizant of what is going on around them.”

The stress of being tranquilized could make the moose jumpy, Plassmann added, noting that, “If she wants to get out, she could go crashing over that fence.”

To avoid any unwanted moose-to-human contact, police blocked off Clarke Avenue and directed people to move across School Street, away from the elementary school parking lot and playground.

Troy Barayon, 12, like many onlookers, had his cellphone camera at the ready for the dramatic moment of capture.

“I had a moose in my neighborhood a few weeks ago,” he said. “It was much bigger than this one and I think it was a male.”

Troy said his grandmother, who lives near Center School, had called that morning to let him know there was a moose in the area. “I don’t have Facebook yet,” he said. “So I’ll probably post a picture on my mom’s Facebook.”

Dolores Ivory, of Davis Street, said she was just back from a vacation in the mountains of Alberta, Canada, where she had looked for, but had not seen any moose.

“This one looks a little scared,” said Ivory, who was peering past the school building on Clarke Avenue for a look at the animal before police closed off the street.

“It’s big for a little one,” added her 11-year-old grandson, Roger Hanlon.

By 10:45 a.m., an Environmental Police officer with a dart gun had arrived and city police began trying to herd the moose towards the back of the school building where she could be tranquilized away from the crowd.

There was one tense moment when the animal suddenly began charging across the parking lot toward the school playground. It soon became clear why: a long needle could be seen hanging off the right side of her neck.

The moose marched around a few more times before her legs began to buckle. She sank down in a heap near the bushes at the back of the building where she’d been hiding earlier. Police and tow truck workers moved in and covered her with a big net.

It took eight men about 10 minutes to lift the moose gently onto the flatbed and from there, into the back of an Environmental Police pickup, leaving only her ears visible over the top of the truck bed.

As the vehicle drove off toward a wooded spot in Huntington near the border with Westhampton, McMahon breathed a sigh of relief. “This couldn’t have gone any better,” he said. “The moose is safe and nobody got hurt.”

On her way back to work at Nash Gallery on Cottage Street, owner Marlies Stoddard said seeing the moose had made her happy.

“It’s a sign that nature is encroaching back into town,” said Stoddard, who had been watching the animal’s capture along with her dog, Lucy.

Stoddard said she heard a moose was in town via Facebook and had sent her own post to the gallery’s social networking page Wednesday morning: “Moosewatch: gallery will be opening late!”

At around 1 p.m., McMahon reported the moose had been successfully released in an area around Norwich Lake in Huntington.

Legacy Comments1

So, it seems like this isn't the first moose to show up in Easthampton in the last few years. Does anyone know where / if there is a breeding population nearby? I was surprised by just how many moose there seem to be in massachusetts!

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