A protest is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Wilmington Notch to show displeasure for how the state Department of Environmental Conservation handled a moose situation there earlier this week.
On Tuesday, a state wildlife official shot and killed a bull moose that had been lingering in the Wilmington Notch and had attracted wildlife photographers, passing motorists and others since Saturday.
DEC officials have said the moose was injured and likely to die, but some members of the public have said the department should have done more to save it, or at least let it die a natural death.
This bull moose — named Bruce by photography student Brenda Rose Dadds-Woodward, who took this picture — was injured and lingering in a ravine in the Wilmington Notch when state wildlife officials shot and killed it Tuesday.
(Photo — Brenda Rose Dadds-Woodward)
The protest is being organized by 29-year-old Dannemora resident Brenda Rose Dadds-Woodward, a photography student at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Dadds-Woodward said she is a wildlife photographer and took pictures of the moose Saturday through Monday. She planned to return to the Notch on Tuesday but didn't because she heard the news that the moose was dead.
"I just started crying," Dadds-Woodward said Wednesday. "I love animals way too much. They could have done a lot better than what they did."
Dadds-Woodward has started a Facebook page called "Protest for Bruce the moose." She is the one who gave the animal a name. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 50 people had signed up for the protest. Many of them have also posted comments that were critical of the DEC's handing of the situation.
Dadds-Woodward said the plan Saturday is to hold up signs and photos of the moose in a parking area off of state Route 86. She also plans to visit the place where he died.
"We're going to also get a cross and put it down across the river where the moose was most of the time and just have something to remember him by," Dadds-Woodward said.
She hopes to put some flowers there and write, "Rest in peace, Bruce" on the cross.
Instead of shooting and killing the animal, Dadds-Woodward said the DEC should have tried to save it or just left it alone, whether it was dying or not.
"They could have at least sedated him and checked his vitals," she said.
If he was dying, they could have moved him into the woods and let nature take its course, she said.
Ray Brook-based DEC Wildlife Manager Lance Durfey said he didn't want to kill the moose but felt that was the best course of action, considering the circumstances.
"Earlier, we had seen that it was having trouble with its left hind leg, and on Tuesday, it was having trouble with both hind legs," Durfey said. "The moose was floundering and unable to consistently stand. Its posture was abnormal. It was hunched in the back end, and it was obviously in a distressed state, and it seemed pretty obvious at that point that euthanization was the best course of action for the moose."
He said the moose may have had a brain worm. The moose's carcass has been transported to the DEC Pathology Laboratory in Delmar, near Albany, for evaluation.
Durfey said the DEC also considered tranquilizing the moose and relocating it; however, that would have likely further injured the moose or possibly even killed it on the spot, Durfey said. He also noted that sometimes tranquilized moose are still able to move their head and limbs, so one of the biologists could have been injured in lifting the moose up to the road.
The moose was at the bottom of the steep ravine in the West Branch of the AuSable River, it would have had to be lifted out by a crane, which is what happened after it was shot.
Plus, there were other complications, Durfey said. The moose might have drowned in the river once it was sedated.
Even if the DEC had successfully prepared the animal to be hoisted out of the ravine, Durfey said it would have been "unconscionable" to move it that way.
"The chemical immobilizing drugs don't render the animal unconscious," Durfey said. "They simply render it unable to move. So the animal would have been conscious through the whole period, and in winching the animal out of there, it would have been very difficult to avoid pain and injury from the actual winching operation. And also, it would have been very unsafe for staff to try and guide it so that its head was above water and didn't drown. On top of that, assuming that we did get it out successfully, it's not like we can take it to the local moose hospital."
Another point of concern for Dadds-Woodward is that the DEC used a paintball gun to persuade the moose to leave the area on Saturday, which some people have speculated worsened its injuries because the paintballs startled the animal and caused it to move quickly. The paintballs left colors on river rocks and a reddish blotch between the eyes of the moose.
A DEC wildlife official initially used the paintball gun to see if it could get the moose to move back into the woods. A caller had told the DEC Saturday that the moose wasn't moving and was stuck in the river.
Durfey said that paintball guns are commonly used to mark and identify nuisance black bears and that they didn't harm the moose.
"It's a pretty innocuous device to use, really," he said. "It's not going to cause pain to the animal. But it's a safe way to physically hit the animal with something that's going to be safe for both staff and safe for the animal."
As for leaving the animal where it had been, Durfey decided against that also.
"On Tuesday, when staff had gone to do another assessment of the moose's health, it had deteriorated significantly, and it was obviously in distress, and it certainly appeared to be in pain," Durfey said. "We thought the most humane thing to do at that point was euthanize the animal."
"I know there's people out there who were saying he probably would have died if they tried saving him and helping him save his leg, but at least they would have tried," Dadds-Woodward said. "I think they should have sedated him and moved him either to ... a (wildlife) refuge, or they could have at least sedated him and moved him into a forest somewhere and let nature do what it was supposed to. So if he was supposed to die in the river, they should have let it be, and not done it themselves."
Contact Mike Lynch at 518-891-2600 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.