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Adventurous moose back in Finland

The moose was released northeast of Finland on a spur road near Nine Mile Lake off of Cramer Road. "She was pretty feisty when we went to open the trailer door although she remained calm for the whole ride up there," biologist Mike Schrage said. "You can see patches of hair missing on her. Normal for this time of year. Moose are shedding their winter coats and they all carry a few winter ticks, which cause irritation and the moose scratch to get rid of them and break some of their hair off in the process...

Perhaps the moose was begging to be captured and sent back to Finland. Perhaps she had channelled the mantra sounded earlier in March from the St. Urho celebration and its "Wizard of Oz" theme. There's no place like Finland. There's no place like Finland.

Moose 4073, who first caught public attention in November when she was spotted in the Knife River area, was found in east Duluth earlier this week. The inherent problems associated with an urban area forced animal experts to tranquilize her and send her back to her home range in the Finland area.

Lakeside resident Ayesha Carlson saw the same moose at 8 a.m. Tuesday near 60th Avenue East and London Road. Her husband saw it on his way to work and went back home to let her know.

"It would walk and look at the cars and people watching it," Carlson said. "It seemed so calm, but I was worried because it was by a busy street."

Duluth police notified the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and were called to assist with crowd control Tuesday afternoon.

A Minnesota Zoo veterinarian tranquilized the moose, and it was loaded into a trailer shortly after 2:30 p.m. Plans called for the moose to be released near Two Harbors, but it was doing so well in the trailer it was decided to take it to Finland, said moose expert Mike Schrage from Fond du Lac.

"My husband, Steve, and I have made several trips to Michigan and Canada, including the entire Lake Superior Circle Tour, and each time we've hoped to see a moose, but never have,'' Duluth neighbor Dawn Bloom said.

"I guess the saying fits, 'Chances are it's in your own back yard.' "

No. 4073 will be nine years old in June and was originally captured and collared near Finland in February 2008, said Schrage, a biologist for the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa.

Reid and Angela Carson of Knife River put Schrage on the case last fall when they shared their own pictures of the moose Nov. 15. "She's Moose 4073," Schrage reported a later after finding her just northwest of the Highway 61 expressway near Larsmont.

It's unusual, but not unheard of, for a moose to travel that far. Schrage said it is rare to spot a collared moose. It's not clear why 4073 settled on the North Shore and then the far eastern edge of Duluth.

"Her original home range until last fall was in the Nine Mile Lake area northeast of Finland," Schrage said. "For whatever, unknown reason she started wandering down to the shore late last fall.''

Schrage said he thinks it's the same cow spotted by a deer hunter near Island Lake north of Duluth last November. A couple days after that spotting came the Knife River report.

"She had been hanging out north of the expressway between Knife River and Larsmont all winter,'' Schrage said. "A couple of weeks ago she made her most recent move back across the expressway and down to the area of Nokomis Restaurant and the Sucker River. We're checking on her once or twice a week to make sure she's alive and still in the area.''

The Fond du Lac band and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are using radio-collared moose to find out where the animals go in hopes they can also learn why fewer calves are being born and fewer adults are surviving.

Schrage said last fall that the moose had likely walked more than 50 miles in 10 days from her usual spot. He said he's seen only three or four moose make moves like that over the course of his study. "Most northeastern Minnesota moose stay in the same 20-square-mile area for their whole life."

He doesn't want 4073 to stick around areas populated by humans since moose aren't too smart about avoiding traffic. "She's already crossed the expressway at least twice," he said in November. He also said people are attracted to moose when one is spotted, causing traffic and other problems with onlookers.

"People were congregating, and we didn't want the moose to get into any more trouble in town," said Brad Wick, public information officer for the Duluth Police Department. "Besides, she was headed the wrong way. She should have been going east instead of west."

And north, clicking her hooves, to Finland.

Moose hunt applications due

Hunters who want the rare chance to hunt a moose in northeastern Minnesota this fall have until May 7 to apply.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will make 213 permits available. They'll be awarded in a random drawing. Only Minnesota residents are eligible. The two-week bulls-only season runs Oct. 2-17 and includes Lake County.

Researchers estimate there are about 5,500 moose in northeastern Minnesota, and that the population is declining.

Lou Cornicelli, the DNR's big game coordinator, says the few bulls taken annually do not significantly reduce the population. He expects state hunters will harvest about 100 moose this fall.

Hunters who received permits for moose hunts in 1991 and later are not eligible. The license fee is $310 per party. Attendance at an orientation is mandatory for all hunters.

In 2009, there were 225 state bull-moose permits issued. Licensed hunters harvested 103 moose for a success rate of 46 percent.