Moose dies in freak bear banger incident

A conservation officer in Prince George, B.C., says he’s shocked that his attempt to scare away a calf moose ended in the animal’s death in what appears to be a freak incident.

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — A conservation officer in Prince George, B.C., says he’s shocked that his attempt to scare away a calf moose ended in the animal’s death in what appears to be a freak incident.

Gary Van Spengen had fired a bear banger at the animal after a cow and calf ended up in a park and attempts by conservation officers and RCMP to herd the animals failed.

“I was very, very shocked when the calf moose fell over,” Van Spengen said. “I have done this procedure on 35 to 40 moose in town, and I find it usually successful in getting them moving and (it’s) never painful to the moose. This was completely unexpected.”

The incident started at about 8 a.m. Wednesday when someone reported seeing the cow and calf in a park in a residential area.

When conservation officers and police are, the cow became too aggressive and typical tactics didn’t work, Van Spengen turned to the bear banger.

The device is primarily used to scare away bears and is essentially a beefed-up cap with a small launcher charge that shoots it a short distance, similar to a flare. Another gunpowder charge makes a loud bang a second later.

Conservation officers use bear bangers that are loaded like bullets into a 12-gauge shotgun and blasted towards an animal.

Van Spengen said that when dealing with bears, the cap should be aimed so it goes bang over the animal’s head. That is ineffective with moose, however.

“Typically, I fire one rubber bullet at a moose to see if the shock of being hit by that sort of projectile will scare it away, but I almost never find that effective,” he said. “That was the case here. No effect.”

“As in past cases, I then turn to the bear banger. I find for a moose, it has to go off right beside them. So I shoot the bear banger projectile into their rump if they are facing away from me or into the shoulder area if they are facing towards me. It hits them and drops to the ground, then when it goes bang, they react.”

But this time, when the bear banger hit the moose, it penetrated the hide and went off while lodged in the animal’s body.

The cow was then tranquilized with a medicated dart and relocated safely to the woods east of town.

The body of the calf was taken to a meat cutter for processing into food, which will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Moose are generally docile creatures, but when they turn aggressive they can do great damage to property and hurt other animals and people.

Van Spengen warned that moose encounters inside the city become more frequent at this time of year.

In most cases, if left alone, the moose will wander back to the forest without any need for human intervention.

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