No need to tranquilize moose near Investors Group Field, says wildlife biologist

A wildlife expert is questioning the actions of Winnipeg police and Manitoba conservation officers after a moose that wandered into Winnipeg died on Saturday.

Stress and exertion took a toll on moose stuck in city for 2 days, provincial spokesperson says

A moose was on the loose in Winnipeg near the University of Manitoba, creating lineups as football fans headed to Investors Group Field for Saturday's Banjo Bowl. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)

A wildlife expert is questioning the actions of Winnipeg police and Manitoba conservation officers after a moose that wandered into Winnipeg died on Saturday.

The moose was seen in southern Winnipeg on Friday and wandered through several neighbourhoods along the Red River before being spotted outside Investors Group Field before the Banjo Bowl.

Officers corralled the moose and shot it three times with a tranquilizer, loaded it onto a trailer and took it north of the city.

The stress and exertion of running through the city in hot weather for two days took a toll on the moose and it died in transport, a provincial spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.

Putting any amount of tranquilizer into the moose during the heat of the day would put it at risk for injury, never mind three doses, said Vince Crichton, a certified wildlife biologist and former manager of game, fur and problem wildlife for Manitoba Conservation.

"If you're going to do it, it should be in the morning or it should be in the evening. I would never drug animals [in the heat] … you don't do it with daytime temperatures like that.

"Probably what happened to this animal is it just overheated and succumbed to that.… They said they shot it three times with a dart. Well, did they give it three doses? That's likely compounded the issue. And that's what, a combination of too much drug and the heat, just resulted in it dying."

The temperature at the time was 23C.

Moose blockade

The moose was first spotted walking through Wildewood Golf course, in Winnipeg's Fort Garry area, on Friday morning.

The fleet-footed calf evaded capture, making its way down residential streets and along the Red River to Crescent Drive Park before dashing into the river and swimming to shore on the other side, a conservation officer said on Saturday.

Conservation officers continued to search for the creature, which next showed up running through fields near the University of Manitoba before Saturday's big game at Investors Group Field.

Police set up a blockade on Chancellor Matheson Road, creating lineups as 33,000 football fans headed to the stadium on the university campus for the match between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"With thousands of football fans in the area, there was a significant concern for public safety," a spokesperson said.

The moose was shot twice with a tranquilizer gun outside the stadium shortly before the game began, Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said on Sunday. It was given another dose when Manitoba Conservation officers got closer to it.

Police and officers borrowed a nearby trailer to remove the moose from the area, Carver said.

Police were prepared to put the animal down if necessary, because the moose was a public danger, he said.

Crichton disagreed. 

"That's nonsense. It's not going to charge anybody," Crichton said. "I've dealt with so many moose on the land in Riding Mountain [National Park], and I've only ever had one come after me … and that was a cow with a calf."

Instead of tranquilizing the moose, police and conservation officers should have concentrated on keeping people away from it, corralled it as best they could, then let it calm down, said Crichton. Later that evening, they could have tranquilized and moved it.

About 27,000 moose make their home in Manitoba, Conservation estimates. Crichton said he personally has dealt with several moose within city limits over the years.

"It's not unusual. Over the years I have dealt with five or six moose in the city of Winnipeg, going back to when I was a regional wildlife biologist.

"With one exception, they've all been 1½-year-old bulls. And it's been at this time of the year, during the rutting season when these young guys start out wandering around, trying to find perhaps a little sweetie someplace."

Only twice has Crichton had to tranquilize a moose to move it outside the city, once because the moose fell into the basement of a house under construction, and another time when the moose was caught in a field in the middle of the city.

The other four times, the moose wandered out on their own, he said. 

The search for a moose on the loose that led Manitoba Conservation and Winnipeg police officers to a field near the University of Manitoba has come to an end. 1:06

With files from Susan Magas, Elisha Dacey and Kelly Malone