Garden Gate Nursery north of Pasco isn’t open to customers this time of year, but that didn’t stop one visitor from making herself at home among the trees Monday.
Three moose — believed to be a bull and two cows — were spotted around the nursery about 7 a.m., owner Everett Wray said.
The bull and a cow moved along Monday morning, but the second female stuck around through at least the afternoon, lazing near rows of trees and exhaling clouds of steam from its nostrils in the chilly air.
“Right now, we just have one up here enjoying a morning kickback,” Wray said.
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The business on West Sagemoor Road sells young trees and landscape-ready trees. Wray theorized the moose wandered in thinking it had found a patch of woods after a long haul across arid landscapes.
An officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Pasco office checked on the moose’s condition Monday afternoon.
“It looked just fine to me,” said Kerry McLerran with Fish and Wildlife. “It looked healthy.”
McLerran did not remove the moose from the area because it wasn’t posing a danger.
The moose may have come from the Spokane area or the Blue Mountains, said Jon Horn, a Fish and Wildlife officer with the Pasco office. More than 1,000 moose are estimated to live in Washington, mainly in the northeastern counties of Pend Oreille, Stevens and Spokane. Horn said the moose may have seen the nursery as a food source.
“If it’s a nursery, (the moose) might feed on the young trees,” he said.
Monday’s spotting may indicate that Washington moose numbers are growing, Horn said.
“Just locally, the population has grown because of the number of moose we’ve seen showing up,” Horn said.
Horn recalled Connell residents coaxing a moose out of town in June 2013, as well as a moose that made its way into a Pasco rail yard in September. In 2011, a moose got stuck in a canal north of Pasco.
“It’s typically not a problem,” Horn said of moose wandering through the Mid-Columbia. “What can be a problem is if we have moose-human interaction.”
Moose are the largest living species in the deer family and can become aggressive if they feel threatened. Wray said that nursery workers kept a healthy perimeter around the moose all day.
“I’ve stayed pretty close to my pickup,” Wray said.
If someone encounters a moose, Horn recommended they keep their distance, not approach and secure any dogs or other animals nearby.
“They’re big, and they can move,” Horn said.
Horn encouraged people to call Fish and Wildlife if they encounter a moose in an area with people. The Pasco field office’s wildlife program can be reached at 509-545-2201 and the Yakima regional office can be reached at 509-575-2740.