A moose has gone looking for love in all the wrong places, including the A9 in Perthshire.
Hercules the moose, a popular character on the Pitcastle Estate, has escaped for the second time in a week in a desperate bid to find a female with whom to mate.
While Alfred, Lord Tennyson commented that “in spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”, when it comes to a six-year-old elk – to use their European name – autumn is the principal rutting season.
A passion that can best be described as “animalistic lust” drove Hercules to smash through one fence, then leap over a barrier at the Pitcastle Estate, near Grandtully in Perthshire, and go off in search of a mate.
His love-fuelled escape mission eventually led him to the grassy verge of the A9.
His owners mounted a major search for their much-loved animal, but Hercules managed to evade detection for three days.
However, a motorist was left stunned when she spotted Hercules by the side of the A9, near Dalnacardoch Wood, about 30 miles from his home.
Jenni McAllister said she was “amazed” to see the errant elk as she was driving towards Perth at around 7am.
Yesterday she said: “I thought it was a big deer and, when I slowed down, I realised it was a moose.”
Hercules’ exploits have been blamed squarely on the rutting season, the annual mating period of ruminant animals.
Last weekend, Helen Lauridsen captured a photograph of the huge beast as she made her way home to Kinloch Rannoch in Perthshire, on Sunday afternoon.
Since moose have been extinct in Scotland for more than 3,000 years, Mrs Lauridsen was baffled by its sudden appearance in the wild.
She revealed how the bull moose’s surprise adventure almost ended in tragedy when he leapt out in front of her friend’s car, close to the popular Queen’s View beauty spot.
She said: “We really got quite a shock. It was darting about the road and staring right at us, so we really didn’t know if it was going to attack us.
“We stopped and waited for it to go and it disappeared up the hill again when another car came past. It really isn’t something you expect when you are out for a drive.”
Although Mrs Lauridsen suspected the elusive moose might have escaped from a nearby wildlife park, both the Scottish Deer Centre and Highland Wildlife Park confirmed that their herds were accounted for.
Desperate for answers, she posted the photograph of the animal online, and was met with a mixture of disdain and accusations of manipulating the image.
She said: “Some didn’t believe me, while others said it wasn’t the Tummel Bridge road. A lot of people said I must have Photoshopped the moose, but I wouldn’t even know how to.”
Others offered advice on how to prove there really was a moose loose aboot someone’s hoose.
One person told her to “put a bit of cheese in your pocket. If it chases you, it’s a moose”.
This is not the first time that a surprising animal has gone on the run. In August 1980, a “tame” grizzly bear from Perthshire, also named Hercules, hit the headlines after disappearing in the Outer Hebrides for three weeks.