Moose stuck in bog hole could have been saved, resident says

Matthew Burry waited four days for wildlife officers to help injured moose

Matthew Burry was riding his skidoo Thursday afternoon when he spotted what he thought was a bear waking up from hibernation.

"We passed up over this rock, snow was drifting up the side of it. We ended up noticing a bit of fur in the hole," the 31-year-old said.

As he got closer, he realized it wasn't a bear but a moose, wedged between a thick wall of rock and a snow drift, only able to move a few inches back and forth.

Burry, who lives in New-Wes-Valley — about 120 kilometres east of Gander — says he called the RCMP, who patched him through to the wildlife arm of the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources.

They took his name, number and location, he said, but never called him back. Burry waited with the moose until dark, then returned Friday morning to dig it out, using shovels to create a trench and helping the animal up with rope.

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Matthew Burry dug a moose out of a deep pit Friday, then waited all weekend for wildlife officials to help. (Matthew Burry/Facebook)

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Burry tried to coax the moose into standing up, but says it was too weak to support itself. He couldn't see any tracks around the hole, and suspects the animal had been stuck for at least a couple of days.

"Well we figured once we got the hole dug and she got out, well she'd get up and take off for the trees," he said. "But that didn't happen."

At that point, wildlife officials still hadn't been in touch, he said. When he finally got through to someone, he said he was told it was too late on a Friday to send anyone out, and nobody would arrive until Monday.

Burry made a fire to keep both himself and the moose warm until help came.

Gerry Byrne, minister of land resources, said conservation officers were dispatched Thursday in response to Burry's report, but couldn't find the moose with the directions they'd been given and couldn't reach Burry on the number the department had on file.

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Burry came across a hole with fur in it, and thought he had stumbled into a bear den. (Matthew Burry/Facebook)

He couldn't confirm whether Burry was told that nobody would arrive until Monday, and said conservation officers are on hand seven days a week.

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Two officers did arrive Sunday morning. According to Burry, they couldn't find out what was wrong with the animal, and decided to euthanize it on site.

Byrne said that's standard procedure when an injured moose is found and can't be quickly rehabilitated. The sheer number of wounded animals in the province, he said, would get costly if officers attempted to capture, transport and treat all of them.

"This is, regrettably, not an isolated incident," he said. "There are over a hundred thousand moose in our province."

Byrne said, contrary to common instinct to help a suffering creature, it's usually kinder to leave an injured animal alone if it's found in the wild.

"During the course of trying to allow it to be freed from the bog hole, given the fact that it's already under duress, it can cause serious injury or death to those who try to free it," he said. "We encourage everyone not to intervene in these situations."

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The moose was euthanized by firearm Sunday afternoon. (Matthew Burry/Facebook)

Byrne said the stress of being around humans could also harm the moose, and said wildlife officers advise anyone making a report to allow nature to take its course, as hard as it might be.

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"I appreciate and fully respect that there was a real empathy that was created," he said. "But coming back to offer it [food], ... although it would seem to any reasonable person as a responsible thing to do, it actually causes more disturbance to the animal."

Burry, for his part, thinks conservation officers could have saved the moose if they had arrived sooner. He expressed disappointment at the department's response, and says his number could have easily been found in a phone book if officers couldn't find him.

He said he told wildlife officials as much over the phone. "[I said] 'If I seen a moose and shot it, I said I wouldn't have the guts out of it, cleaning it, before you fellas would be here giving me a fine,'" he recounted.

"'If I shot this poor moose that can't stand up and puts it out of its misery, and brings it home and puts the meat in the fridge, you guys are going to come give me a fine.' And they said, 'Yeah, we would.'"