The desire that made a lovesick moose devote 76 days to wooing Jessica the cow apparently dropped off with his antlers, and he deserted the Hereford of his dreams the next morning.
"He looks like he's hit the road," Donald Gallus, a Vermont game warden, said Friday. "It appears he is . . . going home."
The 700-pound moose showed up at Larry Carrara's hilltop farm in Shrewsbury in October during mating season and took a shine to Jessica.
The moose was last seen at the farm Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, the moose was on the loose about a mile from the farm.
The moose's departure, wildlife biologists say, was apparently triggered by the loss of his antlers Wednesday. Gallus said once a moose loses his antlers, he loses his defenses--and sexual urges.
During the courtship, more than 75,000 people went to Carrara's farm to see the odd couple. Those who could not visit could hear a song called "Lovesick Moose" written about the pair.
Biologists said it is impossible for a moose and a cow to produce offspring, but the moose closely shadowed Jessica, often nuzzling her and making certain she got her share of food.
Jessica has 10 cows for company in her field, but on Friday appeared a little lost without her moose, said Carrara's wife, Lila.
"I think she was out there looking this morning, looking for him. She acted like she was a little lonesome, looking away," she said.
The Carraras also were taking the moose's departure hard.
"We had a pretty sad night last night. It was 76 days we had him with us," she said. "We got very attached to him, we really did."
Charles Willey, Vermont's moose expert, had said last year that once the moose lost his antlers he probably would leave. "He's really lost his ability to defend himself," Willey said.
Bull moose lose their antlers every winter and grow them again in the spring and summer.
At first, wildlife experts predicted the moose would stay a day or two. Then they thought it would last a week or a month. By Thanksgiving, experts stopped predicting.
Gallus said he thought the moose would easily make the transition back to life in the woods, noting that the animal never grew tame at the farm.