BOWDEN – For three days in late January there was a steady stream of concerned but loving commentary over a wild animal walking the streets of Bowden.
The creature was a large bull moose who came into town to find warmth from the recent cold snap.
The male ungulate’s visit delighted folks on the Bowden is a Community Facebook page, with some wondering where he would go next. It was decided to affectionately name the moose Morty.
“Thank you Morty for grazing the streets of Bowden, lol, you did bring some smiles with your visit,” said poster Carol Pion.
But then came heartbreak. On Sunday, Jan. 29 it was announced Morty had died.
There was speculation Morty had nibbled on poisonous berries, or had fallen ill from the cold.
Most posters were just sad. One even suggested creating a statue of Morty.
Earlier that day at around noon Levi Neufeld, district fish and wildlife officer for the Sundre and Olds district, responded to a call about a bull moose wandering about in the 19th Street and 19th Avenue area of Bowden. It was Morty.
“I went there to go assess its health to see if it was a road-injured moose that had a broken leg, and what the overall state it was in. When I went there it was standing on all four legs,” said Neufeld, who assessed the moose from his vehicle. “Most are very passive but when they get stressed out, they will attack with their front feet. So, we just gave it a nice safe berth.
“We had a good look at the moose. It was healthy. It was standing on all fours. It wasn’t too active,” said Neufeld. “With a cold snap of minus 30 you will see moose come into rural areas because there is food, water, shelter and no predators.”
Neufeld said he then left town, satisfied Morty was in good shape and not presenting any problems.
However, another call came at about 5:30 p.m. to inform him Morty had died while grazing on a residential property.
“We removed it so it would not attract any predators or coyotes,” said Neufeld. “Typically, we would leave it up to the town but given I was working I was able to quickly move it and relocate it for them and get it out of there because it's an unsightly matter after a while.”
Neufeld said the cause of death is unknown but speculated Morty may have died from pneumonia that was brought on by the recent cold snap.
Moose coming into Central Alberta urban areas during winter cold snaps is common. A few weeks earlier one came into Innisfail and was seen going from backyard to backyard to find a snack.
Innisfailian Heather Taylor was up at 5 a.m. on Jan. 9 and noticed an adult moose in her backyard.
“It was grazing on the tree on the one side of our yard and then it stepped over the fence and was grazing on the tree in the other yard. It then laid down for a nap,” said Taylor. “It stood in our backyard for about 15 to 20 minutes. Our cats were going crazy.”
Calls to both the Town of Innisfail and the Red Deer office of Fish and Wildlife did not yield any reports of problematic moose in town.
“If there is a moose in Innisfail it wouldn't surprise me,” said Chris Kelly, a Fish and Wildlife officer from Red Deer.
He noted there have been many past calls of moose going into Red Deer, Innisfail and Didsbury.
“The biggest thing is if people see a moose in town just leave it alone,” said Kelly. “People seem to want to get close and take pictures and put it on social media, and often what that does is stresses out the moose.
“They're wild animals, so they become unpredictable,” he added. “If people can just give them their space and not try to get close to them they come and go.”
For more information on moose and what to do and not do if citizens encounter them, visit the Government of Alberta website at www.alberta.ca/moose.aspx