By Kerry Rudneski
"There is a moose that comes into my yard and sleeps on my steps at night."
"I have a moose living in my yard and it's eating my trees."
"I have a moose living in my car port and I can't get past it in the morning to get to my car."
If you were answering phone calls at the Wetaskiwin Natural Resources Service district office this past winter, you would have learned that these are only a few examples of the approximately 80 moose complaints received over a three-month period. In time, the staff members became quite adept at dealing with recalcitrant moose.
One moose in particular that, from a wildlife officer's perspective, became a living nightmare in a very short time was the cow-calf moose dubbed "Gloria." In mid-January, Gloria decided to take up residence in the Hamlet of Mulhurst, which is located on the eastern shores of Pigeon Lake. Shortly thereafter, Gloria made many human friends as she wandered the streets, alleys and yards of the neighborhood seeking handouts. Also, not long after she moved in and became a local celebrity, various media organizations from across the country became interested in the habituated moose. The majority of people from Mulhurst felt that Gloria was a nice addition to the community. Some however changed their minds when occasional attempts were made to hand-feed her and the cantankerous moose felt she was short-changed and went on the attack. At that terrifying moment Gloria would turn from a nice addition to the community to an unwelcome monster. I have always found it amusing how some people who like to think of themselves as naturalists, relish over nature until they come face to face with the instinctive behavior of nature's beautiful creatures.
At first, though there was some concern, Gloria had not really caused any problems yet and many people of Mulhurst disliked the thought of losing her. However it was not long before Gloria had unpredictably and through no fault of her own displayed her natural, wild character. People became concerned for their safety and that of their pets and it was decided that perhaps Gloria would be better off elsewhere.
Officer Jason Hanson figured that with enough people and, with or without deer fence or some such apparatus, we could somehow surround and subsequently herd the moose into a trailer and our problem would be solved. Some of us are seasoned to understand the complexities associated with herding moose and the all too common "moose rodeo" that can result. Yet Officer Hanson was persistent. He pushed on and acquired a relocation apparatus (which in this case was a horse trailer) from the Edson Natural Resources Service district.
A few days later, I received a phone call from a Mulhurst resident who reported that Gloria was presently occupying her yard. After a brief conversation, Hanson and I attended a nearby grocery store and purchased some apples that we thought might be used to bait the voracious moose. A short time later we were in Mulhurst with our apples and horse trailer, in search of Gloria.
We found Gloria browsing on a homeowner's hedge. We opened the gate to the horse trailer and approached Gloria with one of the bags of apples in hand. We threw Gloria a piece of apple and she found it to be quite palatable. Piece after piece was offered to her, and once she realized that I was in possession of a whole bag of the fresh fruit, she began to follow me. In fact, she followed me out of the yard, onto the street and right into the trailer. Once we were both in the trailer, she got down on her knees and began chewing on an apple that I had dropped on the floor.
I yelled to Hanson to shut the tailgate and I exited through the escape hatch at the front of the trailer. She thrashed and snorted a bit but soon calmed down. Gloria was given a healthy serving of apples for the road and she and her captors were underway.
Gloria was subsequently dropped off many miles west of her old stomping grounds in the picturesque, natural area of the North Saskatchewan River valley. After watching her wander off into the bush, we returned to Wetaskiwin with an empty horse trailer and the satisfaction of knowing she was finally taking up residence with her own kind.
Kerry Rudneski is a seasonal officer with Natural Resources Service in Wetaskiwin.