Morty the Moose, who became something of a mascot for Bowden residents as he munched his way through town last month, is believed to have died naturally.
“We ruled out chronic wasting disease,” said Levi Neufeld, officer for Fish and Wildlife’s Sundre and Olds district, who investigated the moose’s untimely demise.
Since the provincial department only conducts a post-mortem on wildlife if a wasting disease is suspected, the ungulate’s official cause of death remains unknown — leaving some residents to speculate whether Morty ate poisoned berries in the townsite.
Neufeld doesn’t think anything the moose would have found growing in people’s yards could have poisoned him.
As he had no obvious injuries and was too young to have succumbed to old age, Morty most likely suffering from a pre-existing sickness that developed into pneumonia in the frigid temperatures of late January, said Neufeld.
Morty created gleeful excitement for Bowden residents when he was seen munching on branches within the town over a three-day stretch at the end of last month.
His visit had a tragic end, however, when Morty was found dead after grazing on a residential property near Main Street on Jan. 29. His heavy carcass was later removed by a Fish and Wildlife crew.
According to a local news outlet, many Bowden residents were saddened by the end of Morty, with one resident even suggesting the town build a statue.
A local woman thanked the moose for creating some smiles with his visit.
This winter, many moose have wandered into populated parts of Alberta, with some ungulates behaving far more aggressively than Morty.
Last month, a Red Deer man was chased up a tree after being charged by a moose that was feeding in a green space in Anders. And Neufeld noted a pet dog was killed by a moose near Calgary. He cautioned pet owners that moose perceive dogs as the same threat as wolves or coyotes, and they will try to fight them off with their hooves.
The best thing is to give the animal a wide berth, said Neufeld — and definitely do not leave any food out for ungulates.
In the cold months, moose adapt to a hardy, but austere, diet, such as consuming willow branches. Neufeld said eating oats or seeds would be “super rich” and hard on the animals’ digestive system, causing them to sicken, or die.
Some other safety tips from Fish and Wildlife:
– Moose can be stressed and more aggressive during the fall rut or when protecting their young, so keep your distance and keep children and animals inside until the moose has moved on. Do not try to scare off a moose by yelling or throwing things.
– If a moose is in your yard, ensure escape routes are clear and curtains are drawn on patio doors so the moose doesn’t mistake them for escape routes.
– If the moose is blocking your path, try to find another way around or wait for it to leave.
– If charged by a moose, try to find a car, tree or building to hide behind.
– While driving a vehicle, be mindful of movement on the sides of the road. Passengers can watch for moose and wildlife. If you see a moose, be prepared to stop.
– Do not take dogs into areas where moose have been sighted. If walking with dogs, please keep them on a leash at all times and do not let them bark at, or antagonize, moose.
– If a moose is posing a public safety risk, please contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife office at 310-0000. Outside of business hours, call the Report a Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.