(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, V.T.) - At the Vintage Inspired Marketplace in Burlington, Vt., antique dealer Mary Heinrich Aloi had a truly wild encounter this weekend.
"I was amazed at how big it was," she said, describing the moose that lumbered through the entrance to her Flynn Avenue parking lot Saturday.
State and local officials tried guiding the moose away from people and traffic. As they were tracking the moose, game wardens with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Dept. and officers from the Burlington Police Dept. went to Harrison Avenue in Burlington. There, they made what must have been an unexpected discovery.
Burlington Police said the animal's trek pointed them to a shed investigators described in a press release as housing 32 marijuana plants in varying stages of growth. Police said that after obtaining a search warrant for the property, they arrested the 29-year-old resident of a Harrison Avenue house, accusing him of pot possession.
"The moose has a good nose, I guess," Heinrich Aloi chuckled.
"Moose do crazy things," noted Col. Dave LeCours, the chief warden for the Vt. Fish and Wildlife Dept.
LeCours told NECN he could not remember a similar case where a moose chase led to an alleged drug bust. He did note that May and June are the busiest time for moose on the move. LeCours said sightings in developed, populated areas could be because year-old moose are now leaving their mothers and don't have the older animals to guide them.
The moose may find traveling by road an easy way to get around, and can end up getting stuck in residential areas, confused about how to get out, LeCours explained.
"Just leave them alone, don't try to get too close, don't try to harass them," LeCours advised. "For the most part, they're already stressed out, they're trying to find their way out."
LeCours asked drivers to watch out for moose on the roadways in the next few weeks, to avoid dangerous and potentially deadly crashes with the long-legged, heavy animals. They can be so dark in color they can be hard to see at night, LeCours added.
As for the moose Burlington police said ended up tipping them off to the marijuana operation, wardens ushered the animal away from the developed area, toward the woods.
"And we hope he stayed there," LeCours said.