WILMINGTON - A small group of protesters gathered on Saturday, Sept. 29 to protest the state Department of Environmental Conservation's handling of a moose that was lingering in the Wilmington Notch last week.
A DEC wildlife official shot and killed the moose Tuesday in the West Branch of the AuSable River because the animal was determined to be dying and couldn't get out of the steep ravine on its own.
The 10 protesters Saturday held signs along state Route 86 and asked passing motorists to honk for "Bruce the Moose," a name they have given the animal.
Protesters along state Route 86 on Sept. 29.
Photo/Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
"I think he didn't get a chance, really," said protester Mike McCaffery of Malone. "I think DEC did a sloppy job. I think me and 10 buddies with a piece of rope could have done better than they did. I'm an avid wildlife guy. It's pathetic how they ran things. They didn't set road signs up or anything. They got cones set up for joggers today."
After shooting the animal, DEC had the large bull moose hauled out of the ravine with the help of a crane. DEC Region 5 Wildlife Manager Lance Durfey said last week taking the moose out alive would have further injured the animal that already appeared to have at least one leg injury. Durfey speculated that because the moose was hunched over and barely moved in four days, it appeared to have a neurological problem, perhaps caused by brain worm. That's why it was killed.
The moose received a great deal of attention from passing motorists and people who wanted to view a moose in person. Because of the animal's location, right off a narrow and twisty section of state Route 86, it created unsafe conditions for motorists. At times, there were dozens of people walking the road to see the moose. Some speculated that the DEC killed it because of the unsafe traffic conditions, but Durfey said euthanizing the injured moose was the "humane" thing to do.
McCaffery said they shouldn't have done that.
"Just leave him alone; give him time to heal," McCaffery said. "You sprain your ankle, you know, it takes a while. He might have had brain worms; you don't know. It doesn't matter, you know. He's dead."
While the protesters were adamant about their cause, they didn't have as much support as they anticipated. Shortly after the event began, protest organizer Brenda Rose Dadds-Woodward of Dannemora put up a post up on Facebook asking where everyone was.
"There's not as many people (as I expected) right now," Dadds-Woodward said. "But it's still early."
In the days leading up to the protest, the protesters were the recipients of criticism themselves, from people commenting on Facebook and other places.
"I too was saddened by the extermination of Bruce the Moose but would never participate in your rally," Linda Friedlander said in a letter to Dadds that was sent to the Enterprise. "You are wasting your time and effort. Do you really believe it is more humane to let an animal suffer into starvation and die a slow death? Not being able to run fast, the moose would be prey for other wild animals who would start eating Bruce alive. Not a pleasant way to go! It would cost a great chunk of our taxpayers' money to try to relocate such an animal. Money was already spent hiring a crane to remove the body for autopsy. I do feel bad about Bruce, but am also practical and not swayed by my sentimentality. The DEC did the right thing."
Other people questioned why the protesters would put up a cross alongside state Route 86 in memory of the moose, as if the animal was Christian. The cross was made of tree limbs and put up on Saturday, along with some flowers.
Early on, there had been strong criticism the DEC's use of a paintball gun in the incident. Photographs showed the moose with a red paint splotch between its eyes after it was shot by a DEC wildlife official. The DEC later stated that it didn't intend to hit the animal in the head and that the goal was to see if the animal was stuck in the river, hoping the paintballs would prompt the moose to move if it could. The initial reports the DEC received Saturday said the moose didn't move for hours. Paintball guns are more commonly used by DEC wildlife officials when they are trying to mark nuisance black bears.
Despite the lack of support at the protest, Dadds-Woodward said she plans on continuing her cause to help moose and other animals.
"I plan on keeping it going so they can have the change where they don't use paintballs and harassing methods for the animals and try saving them before they kill them," Dadds-Woodward said.
The moose's carcass has been transported to the DEC Pathology Laboratory in Delmar, near Albany, for evaluation.