The Telegram (St. John's)
Greeting an old friend
St. Anthony man has unique relationship with a local moose
If you asked Dave Keats, he would probably say moose are creatures of habit.
The St. Anthony man has enough experience around the matter to make his case.
That’s because every year for the last decade, the same female moose has visited his property to munch on the grass on his lawn.
Every year around the first week of June, she ventures out of the woods behind Keats’ home and makes for the vegetation.
He knows it’s the same moose because of a distinct cut along one of her sides.
“We’re kind of waiting to see her every year,” said Keats.
The first visit came about a decade ago. Keats was heading to his greenhouse when a grunt drew his attention. He lifted his head and there was the moose, just six or seven feet from him. There was a calf with her then.
Every year since, she has been with two calves, some of them just weeks old.
“Every so often throughout the summer, she’ll show back up just around the same area,” said Keats. “You get to see the calves and how fast they’re actually growing, too.”
Memorial University biology associate professor Eric Vander Wal says female moose tend to move in an area of four square kilometres.
In that area, the animals build a “database” of their home range, which includes prime feeding areas and where best to protect themselves.
So, Vander Wal wasn’t surprised to learn Keats kept getting an annual visit from the same animal.
“I think if you look at the science of where moose are and when, they have an intimate knowledge of their home ranges and they know things ready to eat in different places,” said Vander Wal, who is a wildlife biologist.
When it comes to what would drive Keats’ visitors to the same place at the same time, Vander Wal mentioned it could be a form of protection.
It is also a sign of their intelligence. “They are remarkably smart animals, so they know there is not a lot of danger,” said Vander Wal. “It’s not the hunting season, so they’re probably going to be around houses and not worry too much about humans.”
He said there is some science that postulates the moose could be sheltering with her young calves near the Keats’ home.
The human-shield hypothesis suggests prey animals learn when humans are or are not dangerous, and thus they would start to use human structures in that way.
“The predators are probably a bit wearier of coming near the human houses,” said Vander Wal.
Keats said he doesn’t know how much longer he will continue to see his annual visitor.
One thing is for sure, though. He isn’t looking forward to the day when she doesn’t show up for a munch on this lawn.
“I’ll be sad when she doesn’t come back,” said Keats. “Maybe one of the calves will take her place. Hopefully.”