This nice bull moose was recently discovered feeding along the banks of the Ausable River, in the late afternoon. Moose are currently paired as they approach the peak of their annual breeding. Both moose and moose calls have become a rather common occurrence across the Adirondacks in recent years.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials are defending the Sept. 25 killing of an injured moose in the Wilmington Notch.
DEC Regional Wildlife Conservation Manager Lance Durfey said the decision to kill the moose was made after watching the animal suffer for four days. Furthermore, the DEC was following protocol for dealing with moose near busy roadways.
“Certainly euthanizing the moose wasn’t the outcome we wanted or hoped for, but it ended up being the most humane choice for the moose,” Durfey said.
Durfey — who made the decision to shoot the moose — and DEC spokesman Dave Winchell said field staff watched the moose after it was reported on Saturday, Sept. 22 that the moose was spotted in the West Branch of the Ausable River and appeared to be injured.
The moose attracted a lot of human attention during the few days it was there with curious motorists along state Route 86 stopping to watch. Winchell said the increased traffic led to the need for traffic control officers and more dangerous roadway conditions with increased pedestrian and car traffic.
DEC staff tested the moose’s mobility by firing rubber pellets at the moose. The moose moved away from the river and into the woods, only to return on Sunday and remain there until Tuesday when the decision was made to kill it.
“On Tuesday (the moose) was obviously in distress,” Durfey said. “We tried to get it to move again and this time it wouldn’t. Both hind legs were swollen and the animal was floundering, thrashing and unable to stand and it’s limbs were shaky. It was obvious to us the animal wouldn’t be able to recover, and we decided then it was the best to euthanize him and end its suffering.”
Though Winchell said the DEC has not received direct complaints and disagreement from the public, he said a disapproving tone from the community was voiced in local media and social media outlets.
“We were hearing that people didn’t think what was done was right or they were angry the moose had to be euthanized, but what was done was part of the protocol for our department,” Durfey said. “We get involved when wildlife is impacting people, it’s one of our department’s responsibilities.”
The protocol for handling the situation, like the one that unfolded in the Wilmington Notch, is outlined in the New York State Moose Response Manual. Dated April 1, 2011, the manual designates in the section titled “Moose in or near high traffic areas” the following protocol:
“For moose on a heavily used high-speed highway, shoulder, or median, control traffic by reducing vehicle speed or stopping traffic and alerting motorists. Use chasing/herding/hazing options to direct the moose toward more suitable areas. If the moose is in a situation that does not allow for these options, then it should be shot.”
Likewise, in the “Sick or Injured Moose” section, the manual states the following protocol:
“If the moose is injured and it is determined that chances of survival are high, the moose should be left alone and monitored from a distance that does not affect natural behavior. If the moose is in a situation where it cannot be left alone or kept a safe distance from the public, it should be euthanized as soon as possible ... If the injury is severe enough to limit chances for survival, the moose should be euthanized as soon as possible.”
Winchell said he understands the negative reaction and encourages anyone who feels that way to take a look at the outlined protocol for situations like this.
Shooting the moose was decided to be the most humane way to help the Wilmington moose, according to Durfey.
“(With) chemical immobilization, the moose would have been fully conscious but physically immobilized,” Durfey said. “He would have been very uncomfortable, and there are currently no animal rehabilitation facilities that help an animal of that size.”
Winchell and Durfey said they don’t believe this situation sets a precedent for handling injured moose as the DEC takes each situation on a case-by-case basis.
“Human safety was certainly a factor here but not the primary factor,” Durfey said. “The welfare of the animal came down to be the deciding factor here.”
A necropsy (autopsy of an animal) of the moose may take weeks or months to receive results Winchill said, and they will be made available when they are submitted.
For more information about the moose manual, go to the DEC website and follow the link: www.dec.ny.gov/animals/74663.html to read the entire protocol.