Residents irate as conservation officers shoot moose 

Starving, weakened animal 'obviously very ill' After dogs chased it

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Molly the Moose Conservation officers shot this moose after receiving a report it was ill and starving.
  • Photo submitted
  • Molly the Moose Conservation officers shot this moose after receiving a report it was ill and starving.

A starving cow moose has been shot by conservation officers near Pemberton 10 days after dogs chased it.

The young female — nicknamed Molly — had first been seen in the area between Pemberton and Mount Currie in October 2010. She was well known to the community and many were upset by the incident.

Pemberton Plateau resident Michele Humchitt was left in tears after the April 4 incident. A friend came to her house to tell her the road had been blocked off and the moose was going to be shot.

"I was going to jump in the field, because I really didn't want them to kill this moose. I didn't see any reason for this," she said. But before she arrived on the scene the moose was already dead.

"The truck (carrying the carcass) came to where we were standing, I had my finger up and I said 'I can't believe what you just did. It was wrong.'... Every second car that went by was yelling profanities (at the COs) or calling them down."

Humchitt said her 17-year-old daughter Paige, who has special needs, loved the animal and would be distraught.

"Every day or every other day we'd see the moose. People would stop by to take pictures, give it carrots, or people would sit beside the road and watch it," Humchitt said, adding that she felt with spring's arrival it would be better off from eating sprouting grass.

Another resident, Barbara Brooks, believed little could be done to save Molly.

"It was obviously very ill, it wouldn't have survived. (Shooting) it was better than having the coyotes attack it when the animal is so weak," Brooks said.

"We're taking away their habitat, we just moving in everywhere. People are ruining the world."

Called out to check on the moose's condition, Sgt. Peter Busink of the Conservation Officer Service field office in Squamish said he found the moose to be too weak to react to his presence until he was within five metres, and she could barely walk to get away.

"Our job is to go out and make an assessment of an animal and if it is suffering we want to do the humane thing and euthanize it," he said. "The moose's hip bones were sticking out five or six inches from its back, its legs were bowed in, you couldn't see any real meat on its flanks. "

He tried to reach the provincial wildlife veterinarian; unable to do so he felt he had little choice.

"This was an animal that was very near death because it was starving and it was suffering. Had any coyotes or wolves found it, it's the most horrendous way to go. Canines are not very efficient predators and that animal was in no condition to defend itself," Busink said.

He confirmed that they experienced some swearing and gestures from angry residents.

"Obviously, it was an emotional situation and people weren't very happy. Many people had known this moose for quite a while. It's understandable and they don't have all the information," he said.

Allen McEwan of the Pemberton Wildlife Association was able to inspect her to get a sense of her condition.

"The conservation officers described the animal as being severely emaciated and I can concur. When you put you hand on her spine there was just skin and bones, she was just this walking scarecrow," he said.

McEwan added that after the March 25 dog attack, the moose collapsed and had to be helped to her feet.

"One of the big concerns that comes out of this is the inability of a lot of dog owners to manage their pets. It is a violation of the wildlife act to allow your dogs to harass wildlife and while it wasn't the cause of her death, it certainly didn't help," McEwan said.

Human intervention, he said, might have worsened her condition.

"The provincial wildlife veterinarian suggested to me in an email that she may have even had a gastrointestinal problem brought on by someone trying to feed her something. It just doesn't work, they're not accustomed to any feed other than their natural feed and it takes a long time for their stomachs to adapt."

A moose's normal diet is bark of cottonwood trees in the winter, and the buds of dogwoods, willow, and cottonwoods in the spring.

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