Bull moose behind fence at B.C. airport feasts on fresh trees before coaxed to leave

Bull moose behind fence at B.C. airport feasts on fresh trees before coaxed to leave

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — A bull moose that mysteriously arrived inside the fenced perimeter at the airport in Prince George, B.C., ended up staying for weeks after finding itself alone in what an animal researcher says was an untouched “Garden of Eden.”

It took a joint effort involving conservation officers, airport rescue crews and university scientists to coax the moose through an open gate after the animal spent several weeks at the airport feasting on fresh tree growth, said Roy Rea, a University of Northern B.C. ecosystem science researcher.

The young bull never came near the airport runway, but it had to be moved out for the safety of airport operations and the animal itself, Rea said in a recent interview.

“He was hanging out along the fence line over by the bush,” he said. “We kept an eye on him and made sure he wasn’t going to create a danger. If that was going to happen, we were going to have to destroy him, but he wasn’t, so we worked to try and figure out a solution.”

The Prince George Airport is located about five kilometres southeast of the city and includes a forested area within its fenced perimeter of about 10 hectares.

Rea said it is not known how the moose got onto the airport grounds, but it’s suspected a recent storm blew open an unlocked gate and the moose walked through.

Once inside the fence, the moose found itself in a forested area of newly grown trees it would consider a “Garden of Eden,” he said.

“Nothing’s been eaten in there for a while, so it was a real cornucopia of things for him to eat,” said Rea, describing a bounty of red-osier dogwood and willow branches.

“The current growth from last summer gets gobbled up pretty quick by the elk and the deer and the moose, but inside the airport, it’s not been eaten by anything because it’s all fenced off,” he said.

However, Rea said there were signs the moose wanted to leave.

“While there was plenty of food to eat and he was safe from the wolves, I think he probably wanted to get back out because you could see his tracks up and down the fence line trying to figure out how to get out.”

A camera-grid system Rea has had at the airport since 2007 to document wildlife in the forested area alerted him to the presence of the moose.

The animal was spotted in late November and wasn’t convinced to leave until January, but it was only this month that the researchers revealed their wrangling success.

“When the cameras picked up where he was, we got guys in position and moved them to the area, opened up the fence and then we just allowed the moose to just keep wandering down the fence line and out the gate,” Rea said.

He said the cameras often photograph hawks, owls and eagles hunting in the forest and there’s evidence of bears and coyotes digging under the fence to get in, but they stay away from the runway because it’s wide open and unprotected.

In March 2015, a small aircraft with two people on board hit and killed a moose that appeared from behind a snowbank on the runway of the airport in nearby Fort St. James.

Rea said successfully getting the young bull from the airport and back to the wilderness gives the animal a chance to increase declining moose numbers.

“Our moose populations here in northern B.C. are down 70 per cent and the population is really struggling,” he said. “This is a prime bull. There’s not enough bulls out there doing the breeding and every time you can save a bull, it keeps him in the breeding population.”

— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Outdoors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lieutenant Commander Nicole Robichaud welcomes members of the Liberian Coast Guard aboard the HMCS Moncton for training with Royal Canadian Navy off the coast of Monrovia, Liberia, Africa. (Contributed photo by Corp. Ryan Moulton)
Red Deer-raised woman finds her sea legs as commander in the Royal Canadian Navy

Cdr. Nicole Robichaud started out as a local sea cadet

Rode
Feddema adds size and grit to RDC basketball Queens

Iris Feddema has known for several years what she wanted her future… Continue reading

A local photographer captured the contrails of two planes that crossed in the sky over north Red Deer on Wednesday. (Photo contributed by Eric Fischer)
Photo: Planes criss-cross over Red Deer

A local photographer captured the contrails of two planes that crossed in… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

A man injects hydromorphone at the Providence Health Care Crosstown Clinic in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
NDP lawmaker tables bill to decriminalize drug use as overdose deaths soar

NDP lawmaker tables bill to decriminalize drug use as overdose deaths soar

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Low-carbon bucks: Conservatives pitch consumer carbon pricing through savings account

Low-carbon bucks: Conservatives pitch consumer carbon pricing through savings account

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo responds to a question about vaccines during a weekly news conference, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 in Ottawa. Njoo says a faster vaccine ramp-up alone would likely not have thwarted the third wave of COVID-19 in many parts of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccine point man aims to ensure more predictability for shipments

Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccine point man aims to ensure more predictability for shipments

Evan Siddall is pictured in Ottawa on September 21, 2017. Former head of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Evan Siddall has been named as the next chief executive for Alberta Investment Management Corp. He will succeed Kevin Uebelein. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AIMCo names former CMHC head Evan Siddall as next chief executive

AIMCo names former CMHC head Evan Siddall as next chief executive

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canadian home sales up 76% year-over-year, set new March record: CREA

Canadian home sales up 76% year-over-year, set new March record: CREA

WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims addresses the airline's annual meeting in Calgary, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
WestJet CEO Ed Sims finds Air Canada aid package ‘bittersweet’ as talks drag on

WestJet CEO Ed Sims finds Air Canada aid package ‘bittersweet’ as talks drag on

The TMX broadcast centre is shown in Toronto on May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
S&P/TSX composite, Dow Jones and S&P 500 set record highs as mood rises on economy

S&P/TSX composite, Dow Jones and S&P 500 set record highs as mood rises on economy

A man wearing a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 checks his phone as the sun sets in English Bay in Vancouver on April 5, 2021. Canada's existing mobile phone services and consumer groups will get a landmark ruling from the CRTC this afternoon. The regulatory ruling could shift some of the market power held by Rogers, Bell and Telus, which collectively have more than 90 per cent of the country's subscribers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
CRTC to allow smaller wireless players better access to national networks

CRTC to allow smaller wireless players better access to national networks

Most Read