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Moose on the loose: Western ND bull believed to have destroyed lawnmower

Courtesy Photo This lawnmower belonging to Irene Johnson, who lives near Belfield, is believed to have been destroyed by a moose sometime Friday or Saturday.

A moose was spotted Friday and Saturday near Belfield and authorities think the bull could be the cause of a vandalized lawnmower.

At about 9:45 a.m. Friday morning, Belfield resident Patty Hutzenbiler's daughter-in-law heard a family dog barking, went outside to see what the commotion was about and on the road near a mailbox about 100 yards from the home stood a bull moose.

Hutzenbiler said the moose then crossed a country road through a horse pasture north of her home, and jumped a fence into a shelter belt near a barn.

On Saturday the moose was spotted just north of Hutzenbiler's sister's home, Deb Hutzenbeler.

The moose jumped one fence and took an alternate route to cross a few.

"He was just busting through fences ... the last time we had seen him he crossed Highway 85 and was heading east," Patty Hutzenbiler said. "Just like nothing he walked right through them."

Patty Hutzenbiler said she and her husband got within 20 yards of the medium-sized moose, whose horns didn't appear to be fully matured.

"I mean you know you see them in a zoo ... but to actually see them in real life it's something else," Patty Hutzenbiler said.

On Saturday the Stark County Sheriff's Office received a report of vandalism near Belfield.

A new lawnmower owned by Irene Johnson, who lives about five miles northeast of Deb Hutzenbeler, is believed to have been "destroyed" and "literally crushed" by the moose.

On Friday evening, Johnson heard a copious amount of mooing coming from some cows new to the property near her home.

Johnson said on Saturday morning she asked her husband why he moved the mower about 10 to 15 feet from where it had sat.

He said he didn't do it.

The mower's vicinity was splattered with tracks believed to be from the moose.

Johnson said they initially thought the tracks were from a neighbor's bull, but based on the bull's size, the tracks would have been deeper.

"I've had funny things happening out here lately," Johnson said. "I just kind of put it off to my kids taking stuff off of the feeders."

But, when another of Johnson's neighbors spotted the moose, it quickly became the culprit.

The mower suffered considerable damage including ripped cables, bent wheels, a torn-off handle and a ripped-off mower mechanism.

"We had the lawnmower parked by our hay bales and I think he went over there to eat the hay ... the horn probably got hooked in the handle and he just freaked out," Johnson said. "It is toast."

Dan Hoenke, regional game warden supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, who was contacted by the SCSO, said the moose maybe stepped into the lawnmower and was kicking to free itself.

"If it was a bull-moose maybe it was just practicing sparring and got it hooked on its antlers and just started tossing it around," Hoenke said. "They'll do that sometimes with tree limbs or bigger objects like that. They'll throw them up in the air and toss dirt around and act tough."