Grisly discovery

A farmer doesn’t agree with Alberta Fish and Wildlife that more than a dozen wild animals near Bowden most likely died of starvation.

A farmer doesn’t agree with Alberta Fish and Wildlife that more than a dozen wild animals near Bowden most likely died of starvation.

Glenn Norman, who owns the property the animals were found on, said he believes careless or accidental poisoning caused the deaths.

But Red Deer district fish and wildlife officer Chris Kelly said he’s 99 per cent positive that the animals found dead eight kilometers southeast of Bowden near the entrance of a coulee had died of a lack of food due to a harsh winter.

“We have a ton of deer competing for food,” he said.

He was one of two officers who investigated the deaths called in by Norman. A man fertilizing the land saw 10 dead deer in one area and let Norman know.

The remains of a dozen deer, one moose and one coyote were discovered. Norman said six more deer were found after more checks were done.

And subsequently, after fish and wildlife were called, another dead coyote, a fox, a bird of prey, magpies and several cats were found within a one-kilometre radius on Norman’s property and adjacent one.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Norman. “I don’t believe malnutrition for one moment.”

“We spent about 15 hours at the site. We haven’t seen this before,” said Kelly on Friday.

All of the animals were severely decomposed.

Kelly said the moose and deer hadn’t been shot. Kelly wasn’t certain on the coyote found a short distance away. He spoke with officials from Energy Resources Conservation Board to find out if any oil and gas activity was around. Signs of poison were checked in the area.

Gas leaks were unlikely because people living on the property didn’t get sick.

“The deer were extremely malnourished,” said Kelly. “If they have a bad winter and they were starving. . . their bodies shut down and when they do begin to eat food, they can’t properly digest it. We suspect that’s what has happened.” Kelly figures the animals had been dead for months.

“There was nothing left but bones, they were so badly decomposed,” he said. “There was a little bit of hair left on the moose and coyotes.”

Bone marrow was tested from deer samples. It was not white, healthy bone marrow, Kelly said.

One more test is being done to see if any deer had chronic wasting disease, a transmissible neurological disease of deer and elk. Kelly believes the results, which should come back sometime this summer, will be negative.

“It just doesn’t happen on one section,” he said.

Kelly said Friday he was unaware other smaller animals had also died.

Norman finds Kelly’s findings hard to swallow when a second cut of alfalfa had been left out in the field last fall.

“There was actually fat off the moose. You can see it when you find grease on the carcass.”

He also said badgers and beavers in the area are fine.

The cattle rancher said he’s seen liver problems in his animals.

“Damage to the bone marrow, liver and kidney are all related,” he said. “I’ve seen signs of diarrhea among the deer. It’s spread on the vegetation. They don’t defecate randomly around the country.”

Normally, the area is full of life but now it seems like a place of death, Norman said.

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