The Large Animal Response Team (LART) was formed by MassWildlife and the Massachusetts Environmental Police to respond in situations when large animals (moose, bear, and deer) pose a potential threat to human health and safety. In most cases, this involves incidents where animals wander into urban areas or onto or near heavily used roadways. Animals relocated in LART situations are moved only if their immediate location poses a high public safety risk such as a vehicle collision or if the animal has no means of leaving the developed area without moving through high traffic areas. LART does not relocate wildlife causing a nuisance or property damage. An MOU between the two agencies spells out the protocols and procedures that govern LART operations. Team members are composed of MassWildlife biologists and Environmental Police officers specially trained and certified in wildlife chemical immobilization and animal handling.
In the majority of situations, the mere presence of a moose or bear in a neighborhood or other developed area does not mean LART needs to be on the scene. If there is nearby connecting green space and a safe escape route, leaving the animal alone is the best course of action and most common outcome. The best thing people can do is to give the animal lots of space. Don’t try to get closer for a better view or picture as this can often result in the animal moving in an unsafe direction and creating a more stressful situation for both the animal and people.
When making a decision on the best course of action to take with large animals in both suburban and urban areas, LART’s responsibility is to consider public safety and the welfare of the animal.
There are four primary options available in a large animal response situation:
- Monitor: Keeping tabs on the animal from a distance is often all that is needed to allow the animal to move on. The main effort is to keep people away from the animal. This is the most common resolution in most large animal situations and does not require the presence of LART members.
- Haze: Encouraging or “herding” the animal to go in a specific direction. LART members may be on scene and ask for local assistance if this option is chosen.
- Immobilize and Relocate: Using chemical immobilant drugs and transporting the animal to suitable habitat may be chosen, especially if the animal can be contained in a small, confined area. LART staff will be on the scene to assess the circumstances and make the decision as to whether this action is appropriate. Some of the factors under consideration include stress level of the animal, air temperature and humidity, and public safety aspects at the site.
- Euthanize: The option of last resort, euthanasia is employed only when an immediate threat to public safety exists or chemical immobilization is too risky. This is an extremely rare situation, but when the public safety risk is very high, circumstances require this difficult action to be taken.