A lone moose was spotted wandering around Mount Rainier National Park in southwest Washington for the first time last week, some 563 kilometers (350 miles) from where large numbers of the species can be found in the Selkirk Mountains.
Rangers from the Mount Rainier National Park shared a photo of the moose as it trampled across Sunrise Road in the park. They suspect that this individual may have been the moose spotted back this summer at Resort Creek.
While there’s no clue why the moose has appeared to make this bold journey across Washington state, the rangers certainly seem excited.
“Is that a MOOSE??? Yes, that IS a moose spotted on Sunrise Road!!! This is the first recorded moose sighting from within Mount Rainier National Park and southwestern Washington! Yes, I know, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but we are really excited about this sighting!,” the wrote on Facebook.
The post goes on to explain that approximately 1 million moose live in the US, according to the latest estimate from 2015. Just 5,000 of those are found in Washington State, primarily in the Selkirk Mountains (Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry, and Spokane counties) as well as smaller populations in the north Cascades, Okanogan, and Blue Mountains.
Moose are the largest members of the deer family, standing up to 2.1 meters (7 feet) tall from hoof to shoulder. Found in the northern stretches of North America and Eurasia, their natural range has shrunk over the past century as a result of human activity.
The sighting in Mount Rainier is unexpected, but moose are known to regularly embark on vast migrations as long as 144 kilometers (89 miles) between their winter and summer breeding grounds. It’s not worrying to spot a moose by itself either since they are solitary animals that don’t form herds.