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A deputy’s duty? Helping a disoriented moose

There was a moose loose in Aurora Monday that, for some reason, decided to lay down and take a nap in the middle of a street. St. Louis County Deputy Bernie Metler then helped the moose up and herded it out of town. Forum News Service

DULUTH — Sgt. Bernie Mettler has responded to a lot of calls in his 21 years as a St. Louis County Sheriff’s deputy, but until this week, never a moose rescue.

Mettler was called to the north side of Aurora Monday morning after reports from residents that a moose was on the loose and apparently unable to find its way back into the woods.

“It looked like it came into the north side of town from the east … and then got trapped,’’ Mettler said. “There’s a tall fence there that keeps people out of the old mine dumps and mine pits to the north, and it couldn’t figure out how to get around the fence.”

Much of the drama unfolded only 150 yards from the Aurora school playground, and the deputy was concerned the moose might wander deeper into town, where it could collide with a vehicle or person.

Mettler received “backup” from Deputy Heather Schendel, armed with a digital camera, and Hoyt Lakes police officer Mark Wippler, armed with a video recorder. They documented the incident for posterity, but the officers couldn’t persuade the moose to head back east.

“I had seen a couple wolves just outside that part of town earlier that morning, and I have a hunch the moose got chased into town by the wolves,’’ Mettler said. The moose “didn’t want to go back that way at all.”

At one point the confused moose tripped and fell down on Railroad Avenue and just lay there, apparently exhausted from its Aurora ordeal.

Mettler has dealt with dead moose struck by cars along the road before. And he’s had to prod a bear and even some intoxicated people to move on from where they were stationary.

He’d never had to help a moose to its feet before. But that’s what he did.

“He looked very tired. But I gave him a little help, and then (he) got back up,” Mettler said, downplaying his moose rescue. He compared the moose to a cow stranded on its side, unable to right itself because of its size.

Mettler said he wasn’t too worried the animal might harm him. And he noted that the moose looked skinny.

“It has been a tough winter for them,’’ he said, lamenting the decline in northern Minnesota moose in recent years. “I used to see a lot more of them. Now, it’s pretty rare.”

Eventually the officers herded the moose west and out of town, where it headed back north into the woods.

Ron Moen, a moose researcher at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute, reviewed photographs of the moose and said it appeared to be 2 to 3 years old. Moen said the moose appeared to have an unusual growth on its neck but didn’t seem to have any other obvious maladies.

While Mettler at first thought the moose was a bull between its sets of antlers, Moen said the photographs appear to show it was a cow moose.