FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A severely hydrated moose calf that became separated from its mother died from drowning, likely after being force fed water, authorities said Thursday.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska Wildlife Troopers are investigating the death of the calf late Monday or early Tuesday on Fort Greely, near Delta Junction, and may refer charges if they find people acted negligently in giving the calf water.
Several people called the Fish and Game office to report the calf was alone and its mother was not nearby, and asked what they should do, game authorities said in a release.
They were told to leave the area and the calf would likely reunite with its mother, which was probably close by.
However, a small group of people began to gather near the calf. Delta Area biologist Darren Bruning and personnel from Fort Greely’s Environmental office arrived. They told people to leave, which would help reduce the calf’s stress level.
Some bystanders told officials they were worried the calf didn’t have enough water.
Fort Greely police helped direct people away from the moose Monday afternoon. When Bruning returned early Tuesday morning, he found the moose’s carcass.
“If we learn someone acted negligently in causing the death of this animal, particularly if they disregarded guidance by ADF&G, we may refer charges for prosecution,” Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Justin Rodgers said in the release. “These types of investigations are not common, and they generally involve a member of the public who was trying to help. But, ignorance of applicable laws is not a valid defense, particularly when wildlife professionals provided appropriate guidance to the public.”
State law prohibits the feeding, capture, handling or disturbing of wildlife without a permit.
The necropsy showed the calf was severely dehydrated, caused by being separated from its mother for more than 12 hours, and death from drowning. Officials said the drowning likely occurred after it was force fed a large amount of water.
There were no water sources like puddles or ponds near the calf.
“We really appreciate the fact that people are concerned about the welfare of this moose calf, and of all wildlife in general, but when people try to help young wildlife, the results are usually bad,” Bruning said.
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