September 21, 2017

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Conservation officers to blame for IGF Moose death: wildlife biologist

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A moose was loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday. The moose caused many Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans to be delayed on their way to Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.</p>
Moose on the loose
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday. The moose caused many Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans to be delayed on their way to Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday. The moose caused many Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans to be delayed on their way to Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The moose scares geese out of a pond.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday found its way into a pond.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A moose runs loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.</p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A moose was loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday. The moose caused many Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans to be delayed on their way to Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday. The moose caused many Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans to be delayed on their way to Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday. The moose caused many Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans to be delayed on their way to Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The moose scares geese out of a pond.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday found its way into a pond.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A moose on the loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg police and the department of fisheries try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A moose runs loose near the corner of Pembina Highway and Chancellor Matheson, Saturday.

Manitoba's top moose expert blames provincial conservation officials for the death of a young bull wandering outside Investors Group Field Saturday that was shot three times with a tranquilizer gun and later died.

"There's no way that animal should've been drugged at those temperatures," said Vince Crichton, a retired Winnipeg wildlife biologist and big game manager for Manitoba. "They overheat," said Crichton, who is one of the authors of the bible of moose biology, The Ecology and Management of North American Moose.

On Saturday afternoon, a roaming young bull moose prompted police to block Chancellor Matheson Drive, delaying the start of the annual Banjo Bowl football game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Temperatures were in the mid-20s when the 300-kilogram animal was cornered and hit three times with a tranquilizer dart before it went down.

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Manitoba's top moose expert blames provincial conservation officials for the death of a young bull wandering outside Investors Group Field Saturday that was shot three times with a tranquilizer gun and later died.

"There's no way that animal should've been drugged at those temperatures," said Vince Crichton, a retired Winnipeg wildlife biologist and big game manager for Manitoba. "They overheat," said Crichton, who is one of the authors of the bible of moose biology, The Ecology and Management of North American Moose.

On Saturday afternoon, a roaming young bull moose prompted police to block Chancellor Matheson Drive, delaying the start of the annual Banjo Bowl football game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Temperatures were in the mid-20s when the 300-kilogram animal was cornered and hit three times with a tranquilizer dart before it went down.

Winnipeg Police try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina at Chancellor Matheson on Saturday. (Trevor Hagan, Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Winnipeg Police try to contain a moose near the corner of Pembina at Chancellor Matheson on Saturday. (Trevor Hagan, Winnipeg Free Press) Purchase Photo Print

"If you want to drug it, drug it in the morning or late in the afternoon or evening when temperatures go down," Crichton said. "It should not have been drugged at that time. I would not be drugging it at this time of day because the risk of the animal not making it is enhanced greatly."

A provincial government spokesman said Monday it is easy to question conservation officials, but the safety of tens of thousands of football fans was uppermost in their minds.

"Everybody can second-guess how they would have done it, but … unless you’re there and the primary concern is public safety …and that was achieved."

Police said on the weekend that they were prepared to kill the moose if conservation officers couldn't sedate it.

At one point during the weekend, media were told that the moose was not injured and had been let loose north of the city. It was transported to a "nice, safe place," reporters were told.

However, on Monday the province said the moose died en route after being tranquillized and prepared for relocation.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>Vince Crichton in 2013</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Vince Crichton in 2013

"Public safety is paramount and the officers made every effort to ensure no one got hurt," the provincial spokesman said.

However, Crichton said once the moose was cornered and away from traffic, it posed no threat to the public.

"He's not going to go after someone and ram them," he said. "I've dealt with too many to know that," said the moose expert who has seen more of the big boreal forest dwellers settling on prairie farm fields thanks to a food source and lack of predators.

"He was in a big open field," said Crichton. "I would've backed off. You can keep people around the perimeter. Eventually he might have laid down. Rather than having a dog and pony show with the police and (conservation officers) yelling and running around, you should back off and leave him alone." Crichton, who lives in Winnipeg, said he wishes that someone would have called him about the moose.

"I would've given them some sage advice I have learned over my many years of dealing with them."

Crichton recalled five or six reports of moose in Winnipeg and has seen a pattern in their arrival.

"What's really interesting is all of them were year-and-a-half-year-old animals and all of them were bulls except one cow." He said they show up in the city around the same time — their rutting period.

"A young bull will get out and start moving around looking for a sweetie."

Manitoba Conservation has been criticized for its handling of other high-profile wildlife cases.

In 2013, the province’s conservation minister changed the way officers enforce the Wildlife Act after a tame deer was shot dead by Conservation officers on the Windy Bay Hutterite Colony.

Then-minister Gord Mackintosh ordered a new directive that wildlife officers may only kill hand-reared wildlife as a last resort.

"I’ve asked that a clear directive be developed to make it clear that euthanasia is the last resort," Mackintosh said at the time.

A year earlier, Conservation considered euthanizing a bear cub that had been taken in by a St. Malo family after believing the cub had been orphaned.

The bear, which became known as Makoon, was cared for at the Assiniboine Park Zoo for a short time before Conservation released into the wild. The department never revealed where the bear was released.

The move triggered outrage by animal rights’ group, which said it was a death sentence, while thousands of people from around the world had signed a petition asking the province not to release the bear into the wild.

- With files from Larry Kusch

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Carol Sanders.

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Updated on Monday, September 11, 2017 at 5:44 PM CDT: Updates

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