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Long trek by lost moose attracts huge online following

Minnesota woman says people are drawn to the story of the meandering bull moose because of all the negative things going on in the world

DASSEL, MINNESOTA — Rutt the moose has quickly become the most famous moose in North America since the early 1960s when Bullwinkle was a star on an animated network TV series.

Since he wandered into Iowa last fall – much farther south than the animals normally go – his travels back to moose country have fascinated tens of thousands of people following his progress online.

Photos of the roughly 18-month-old bull are being posted on Facebook regularly.

A woman tracking his progress from Virginia recently wrote: "Who would have thought I would enjoy following a moose's travels so far away? But it has brought so much joy to me."

From Spain, someone else wrote "I hope he lives a long and happy life. I love seeing the photos and knowing that so many people care about this moose."

Rutt is recognizable by his distinctive markings including a unique notch in his left ear and three points and a very small one on his right antler. 

He was first spotted near Alton, Iowa on Sept. 23. and by yesterday had travelled hundreds of miles to Borup, Minnesota, approximately 150 miles from the Canadian border.

Brenda Johnson of Dassel, MN administers the Facebook page Minnesota's Moose on the Loose which currently has over 52,000 members.

"I can't believe how much this blew up. It was basically over (US) Thanksgiving. I was getting calls from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press. People across the world have gotten onto the page," Johnson said in an interview Tuesday.

"I think a big part of it is just what's going on around the world, and this a feel-good story, something that we keep positive on the page."

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has stated that the animal appears to be healthy despite the long trek he's made.

Most of Minnesota's estimated moose population of 3,000 to 4,000 live in the northeastern corner of the state, but the animals also inhabit woodlots and farmfields in the northwest.

Johnson said Rutt may have been sighted in South Dakota prior to Iowa, and wonders if his original home is actually North Dakota.

"Some people speculate the Canadian wildfires . . . but nobody really knows why he made his way down. There was another moose spotted in Iowa about a month after the rutting season, and he sadly fell through the ice and drowned."

She allows some time between receiving a new photo and posting it in order to protect Rutt from being hounded by members of the public.

"We like to wait a few hours. We don't like people to rush and, you know, mob him . . . Our number one concern is his safety. We love pictures from a distance, and we love the professional photographers."

There are other moose in the vicinity of Borup, so Johnson hopes Rutt will soon settle down for the winter, or perhaps move just a little farther north.

She said DNR officials have advised to: "Just leave him alone. Leave him be. He should be just fine. I think he's still looking for a home, but we don't have to worry about him so much." 

Johnson has produced a calendar with photos of the animal, which is available through a link on the Facebook page.

If there's money left over, she said, she plans to donate it to a wildlife refuge in the Twin Cities area.




Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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