A veterinarian who examined the moose that died at the Chippewa zoo in Thunder Bay has determined it died from liver failure — and that it showed signs of poor body condition and loose manure. Those symptoms, Dr. Dan Matyasovszky says, are common among captive moose, which usually die before the age of six.

But Matyasovszky also concluded the moose was "adequately" cared for at Chippewa, where the 7 year old animal spent nearly its entire life.

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Due to the difficulties associated with raising a captive moose, it is "unlikely" the Chippewa zoo will bring in another moose in the future, according to a city press release. This moose died on Aug. 27, due to liver failure. (Kathy Walkinshaw/City of Thunder Bay)

The species cannot survive on a diet of grass and grain, he added.

Parks Division manager Paul Fayrick said city staff members in charge of the moose’s care were unaware of that reality.

“There's a deficiency in commercially-available … moose food, which doesn't replicate their natural diet,” Fayrick said. “That's what caused the problems ... they need such a wide … large area for brows[ing], and they need the wood fibre in the poplar.”

Fayrick said the news was also a surprise because elk, caribou and deer at Chippewa do survive with grass and grain.

It's unlikely the city will bring in another moose, he said.

Hard to care for

A more rigorous inspection program is now in place at the zoo, with vets checking all animals monthly, instead of on an as-needed basis.

"Moose are notoriously hard to care for in captivity," Matyasovszky said Thursday in a city press release. "They are susceptible to disease, and have specific dietary requirements that simply can't be reproduced in the required amounts in a wildlife exhibit or zoo setting. Ninety per cent of moose die before the age of six when in captivity; 70 per cent die within their first year."

The moose died on Aug. 27. Along with a sibling, it was brought to the park when it was just a few weeks old. Their mother had been struck and killed by a vehicle. The second moose died shortly after its arrival at Chippewa.

"We were very sad to see this animal pass away," Fayrick said.

"It had been a staple of the Chippewa facility for many years, and our staff there cared about it a great deal."