LEWIS COUNTY, Wash. — A moose was spotted for the first time in Mount Rainier National Park Thursday, according to the National Park Service.
The moose was caught on camera by a remote-sensing camera on Sunrise Road, said Greg Dudgeon with the National Park Service.
This is also the first moose spotted in southwestern Washington in general, the park service said. Previously, the farthest southwest a moose was seen in Washington state was near Stevens Pass in 2009, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"As far as we know this is the first time a moose has been seen in this part of Washington state and documented, so yeah, we're very excited," Dudgeon said.
In August, a moose was spotted on the I-90 wildlife undercrossing at Resort Creek, which is just southwest of Snoqualmie Pass. Another moose sighting was reported in the same area in September. The National Park Service speculated the moose spotted near Mount Rainier could be the same one.
While we may never know the real reason a moose decided to journey this far southwest for what could be the very first time, Dudgeon said the moose is likely to find the national park has everything it needs.
"Moose will do what moose do, and that is, they look for groceries, they look for a home and, you know if they are by chance expanding into the area I can well imagine that a national park makes a great place for groceries and home," he said.
As of 2015, there were an estimated 5,000 moose living in Washington state. Most live in the Selkirk Mountains in Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry and Spokane counties with smaller numbers living in the north Cascades, Okanogan and the Blue Mountains, according to the WDFW.
Moose have been known to wander farther south on the east side of the state, including into the high desert of the Columbia Basin. Generally, moose prefer forested habitats with lakes, marshes and other wetlands.
Moose in Washington state belong to a subspecies called Shiras moose, which are smaller than the moose that can be found farther north in Canada and Alaska. Adult moose measure about six feet at the shoulder, and bulls typically weigh between 850 and 1,100 pounds. Adult females can weigh anywhere between 600 and 800 pounds, according to the WDFW.
Should park-goers spot the moose, Dudgeon cautioned visitors to respect the animal's space.
"Whether it's moose or any other type of wildlife, we just remind folks that it's a part of the natural setting, the natural processes here, and to give the animals a wide berth, take photographs, don't get too close and enjoy the fact that they're seeing one of the very first moose, if not the first moose, in this part of Washington state to be recorded."