A moose named Hope has been set free in the forests of the Abitibi. Last June, the young calf was brought to the Refuge Pageau in Amos, about 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
The animal, which was only about a month old, had become separated from her mother after they made their way into Amos.
"They both came in the city, both were stressed out," said Marie-Frédérique Frigon, spokesperson for the refuge.
Conservation officers guided the mother out of the city. But they weren't aware of the baby moose which was found later and brought to the refuge.
Humans kept distance from animal
Many of the moose calves they see at the refuge are just a few days old and need to be fed with a bottle, therefore they imprint to humans.
"When they're a little older like Hope was, it's harder because they are very, very scared of people," Frignon said.
But Hope's age increased her chances of eventually being released because she held on to her fear.
The refuge staff kept their distance and made sure there were no human interactions.
Moose are still normally nursing at that age, but Frignon said the animal adapted well to solid food.
Hope lived inside an isolated pen in a two-hectare wide forested area. Staff would quietly leave twigs and a special feed for the animal without talking.
"We've seen her grow through a security camera."
Despite the distance, Frigon said she became quite attached to the moose.
"I love that girl, but I've seen her one time."
First release of moose into wild for refuge
Hope was released in late November at a time when moose, normally solitary animals, tend to group together.
First the animal was sedated by an injection dart. Then a team that included wildlife technicians and a veterinarian transported the animal to a forest several kilometres away where other moose were known to be present.
Hope is fitted with a tag and a tracker collar so staff can monitor where the animal goes.
"We know that she's still moving. Which is good news. We know that winter can be hard for the first year," Frigon said.
"It's not a win yet — we hope she makes it through the winter and the summer."