Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Of Moose And Men

The great outdoors men and women of the rugged west are an interesting breed. They hunt. They fish. Communities are often more eager to euthanize unwanted pets than place them. In other words - they kill and seem to have little compunction about doing so.

Not being a hunter, especially in this day of four wheelers and super scopes with which to zero in on a prey, I don't understand the sport. I do understand compassion for animals, especially those in need. Here is where this city girl and my more rugged neighbors come together in our thinking. We've had a brutal winter. Wildlife can barely get around and occasionally one gets into the kind of trouble that would be fatal were it not for man.

Moose seem to being particularly hard hit They are an iconic animal to our region. Big, lumbering beasts that have a charm all their own. Solitary for the most part. Seventy five of them, so far, have been killed by trains as they searched for pathways out of the deep snow.

In late December a big bull fell through the ice at Loon Lake in Washington. Men crossed the ice in boats and using chain saws cut a path until the moose could get his footing and freedom.

More recently a moose rescue became a community activity. Having fallen into Priest Lake, about 100 yards from shore, the task was not an easy one. Some thirty people and eight strenuous hours later, the moose had been rescued, revived and on her way into the woods. Getting a 700 pound cow out was a monumental chore unto itself but then came the wrapping of blankets, even an electric one, and heat from a space heater. Massage to get the circulation going and lots of hugs. She was fed oatmeal and sugar water.

I am fascinated by the story. Fish and Game officials, who weren't on the scene, would have left the moose to die. Their thinking is that it is a potentially dangerous animal and the risk of human life for one moose isn't worth it. This is the same agency who won't remove a carcass from the highway because it isn't their job. The rescuers were also chided for feeding the beast because the food was contrary to the moose's winter diet and could kill it. Somehow I don't imagine the moose ate enough to make much difference other than to warm her innards.

Maybe the wrong people are in charge of our voiceless friends. From the snowmobilers in British Columbia who came across two emaciated horses above the tree line, rounded up about fifty people who, in a weeks time, hand shoveled a half mile escape route, to the people who attended the memorial service for a Zebra that was a beloved and integral part of an equine therapy program, the animal lovers are out there.

As for the chiding directed at the folks from Priest Lake, I'm willing to wager if the same situation occurred this minute, they'd do it all over again. I know I couldn't have stood by and watched that animal die. Nor could I have shot it. I'd have had to try.


June Saville said...

There is such a range of attitudes to the treatment of animals. I cannot come to terms with the expenditure on really pampered pets when there is so much misery in other directions.
June in Oz

Hughes ap Williams said...

Love the moose rescue story - restores my faith in humanity. In New Jersey the nearest we get is a stray deer in a pool...

"Consider the sparrows of the field..."