Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Ailed Moose Shot by DEC Still A Mystery

Ausable-River-Moose-300x213An 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.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

6 Responses

  1. Bullwinkle says:

    The DEC looks very foolish now.

    • Paul says:

      Nothing foolish about making sure that an animal doesn’t suffer unnecessarily. But I suppose that you could argue that we should not interfere and let cruel nature take its course.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Maybe the moose ate some “grass” left by someone.
    When in doubt, kill.

    • Paul says:

      Pete, Everything I read said it was staggering around killing itself no matter what the cause. Maybe disease or maybe drugs?? Probably one of the many things that happens out in the wild that we wish we could explain but eludes us.

  3. micheal mcfaffrey says:

    When i saw him there was a fawn there bleeting. Got a pic of him and the fawn.

  4. David Andel says:

    My wife and I were there that day and watched him for over an hour which allowed her to take several excellent pictures of the moose. The moose was definitely favoring one of his hind legs, lifting it off the ground when standing. He appeared to be trapped, and was stationary during the entire time we watched him. So sad that such an magnificent creature had to be put down.

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