Ignorant neighbours kill two moose in rural North Idaho

For days before the two moose died, Mary Franzel did everything she could to scare them away.

She yelled. She stomped. She hurled kindling. But the mother and baby moose were unconcerned, mostly ignoring her aggression, continuing instead to munch on cedar bows near her home area.

“Baby was a little more willing to trot off than mom was,” Franzel said.

Franzel, a veteran of living in rural North Idaho and a native of Minnesota (the land of moose and lakes), knew it was a bad situation.

These moose were clearly habituated to humans, and the big ungulates, which are routinely 6 feet tall at the shoulders and weigh more than 1,000 pounds, can be dangerous.

“I’ve a watched a neighbor hand-feed (deer) peaches,” she said.

Feeding wildlife, particularly deer, elk and moose, can be dangerous. It habituates the large animals to human presence and can lead to aggressive behavior.

And the wrong kind of food, at the wrong time of year, can be deadly. But the two moose in Franzel’s yard looked healthy and were behaving normally, other than being unafraid of Franzel.

“I’ve seen some really scuzzy looking moose and these two looked beautiful,” she said. “Their coats were very lovely.”

And then they weren’t.

On January 28, her dogs were barking and aiming their snouts toward the back of Franzel’s home. She walked into one of the back bedrooms and found the mother moose leaned up against her window, with her baby anxiously mewling nearby.

“First I thought the mom was taking a snooze,” Franzel said. “So I went to bang on the window then I was like, ‘No that’s not natural.’ ”

The mother moose was dead and her baby orphaned. Over the weekend, Franzel tried to figure out what to do with the carcass. Eventually, a friend of Franzel’s, who is a wolf trapper, dragged the moose away to use as wolf bait, which left the baby moose alone and increasingly aggressive, often flaring its ears back and raising its hackles.

Worried about going into her own backyard, Franzel didn’t know what to do. She called the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and they offered, after some back-and-forth, to come and shoot the baby with rubber bullets in hopes of scaring it away. And then, the baby also dropped dead soon.

Moose eat different types of food at different times of year. During the summer, they are able to metabolize nutrient-rich food. During winter, however, their bodies are adapted to get by on fewer calories and their stomachs can’t process carbohydrates well. They mostly just filling their stomachs with woody material that has almost no nutritional value.

Eating a carbohydrate-rich diet at the wrong time produces massive quantities of acids in the rumen, according to a Colorado State review of ruminal acidosis. Those acids damage the rumen lining, allowing bacteria to leak into the animals’ bloodstream, and can cause other problems. This disease is commonly called grain overload and is deadly. In 24 hours to 78 hours they will be really healthy to dead.

For Franzel, the entire experience was heartbreaking.“It is very frustrating,” she said.

“When I’ve tried to talk to neighbors who put food out for the deer … they refuse to believe the science and potential harm behind what they are doing.”