An examination of a bull moose shot by state officials in the Ausable River last September found no diseases or ailments to explain its strange behavior, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“We’re not sure what was wrong with it, but something was,” DEC spokesman David Winchell told the Adirondack Almanack.
The department found no evidence of brainworm, a parasitic infection often fatal to moose, but Winchell said it’s possible the worm was present. He noted that the parasite is only one or two centimeters long and thinner than a fine human hair.
“Most likely it had brainworm and we just didn’t find it,” Winchell said. Brainworm has been found in other Adirondack moose.
Joe Okoniewski, who conducted the necropsy, looked for the parasite in the brain and the upper spinal cord but not the lower spinal cord. “Brainworm could have been present in the lowest section of spinal cord that was not dissected. Missing one in the brain, although unlikely, cannot be discounted,” he said in his case report.
DEC came under some criticism after it shot and killed the 674-pound moose on September 25. The moose had been hanging out in the river in Wilmington Notch for several days, attracting spectators and causing a traffic hazard. Officials tried to drive the animal away with buckshot and paintballs, but it returned to the narrow ravine and appeared to have trouble walking.
At the time, Winchell said the moose’s deteriorating condition—as well as safety concerns—led DEC to dispatch the animal with a rifle. “It was not able to move out of there on its own, and the likely outcome would have been its death anyway,” Winchell said then.
The necropsy report found excessive fluid in the moose’s limbs, but otherwise its legs were not injured.
“Nothing to explain the abnormal behavior of this moose was found,” Okoniewski wrote.
The pathologist did find evidence of a liver-fluke infection. Although not a cause of the moose’s behavior, “the amount of fluke-related damage to the liver of this young moose suggested that an eventual crisis related to this condition would have loomed in the future,” he said in the report.
In a fact sheet explaining the necropsy results, the department stands by its decision to shoot the moose. “DEC acted appropriately when it euthanized the moose. The animal was clearly in distress and its condition was deteriorating quickly,” the department said.
Photo of the slain moose, taken by Brenda Rose Dadds-Woodward.