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The N.L. island that didn't know what to do with a 'lonely' moose

The moose was said to be lonely. But that was stating things a little too politely.

Mate-seeking moose could find no others of his kind on Bell Island in the mid-1980s

The 'lonely' moose of Bell Island, N.L.

36 years ago
Duration 2:25
A lonely moose was spending a lot of time with the cows of Bell Island, N.L., as of 1986.

The moose was said to be lonely. But that was perhaps stating things a little too politely.

"This is one lonely moose — so lonely he'd rather be a bull than a bull moose, or at least that's the way he behaves," the CBC's Kathryn Wright told viewers on The National on Oct. 31, 1986.

"With no moose friends, he's taken to visiting the Bell Island cow pasture every morning."

He'd ended up on the island after swimming over from nearby Portugal Cove, N.L., five years earlier. He was believed to be the only moose to have made the five-kilometre journey to that point.

So far, the story seemed charming enough — but only until Wright sketched out the full picture of the moose without a mate.

"He grazes with the cows, gives them a friendly nudge every now and then and in the season of love, seeks out more meaningful relationships," Wright reported.

Should the moose get a mate?

This woman who answered her door believed the "lonely" moose of Bell Island, N.L., should have a mate. (The National/CBC Archives)

Henry Crane, a local pasture manager, wondered if "we may get some young moose" in the months ahead, if the status quo continued.

The moose appeared to have zeroed in on one cow in particular, which locals referred to as "the moose's girlfriend."

A majority of people on the island favoured seeing the moose "contented," Wright said, noting that view had been confirmed through an island-wide survey.

"Do you feel the moose should have a mate?" said a woman out conducting the survey on Bell Island, as a CBC camera was rolling.

"Yes," said a woman leaning against the frame of her front door.

What about the vegetables?

Local mayor Walter Tucker was concerned that having too many moose on Bell Island could be a problem for the crops farmers grew there -- because they would eat those crops. (The National/CBC Archives)

Having a mate brought to the island was a possibility and Wright said local councillors would use the survey results to guide their thinking on that issue.

But Bell Island Mayor Walter Tucker said councillors wouldn't be bound by the results of the survey, as there was a lot to consider about the situation.

"We as council have got to be more concerned with the farmers' vegetables than just the general consensus of the people," he told CBC News.

The moose that was living on Bell Island was spending a lot of time hanging around the cows that grazed there. (The National/CBC Archives)

That's because there were fears that if the moose got a mate and they produced offspring together, those multiple moose could eat the vegetables grown on Bell Island.

Farmers were separately concerned about the male moose's effect on their livestock. 

"The moose and the cows appear to be getting along, but the farmers say his attentions have made the cows skittish," said Wright. "They're not grazing properly and they're under-weight."

No more moose?

Farmer Leo Murphy did not support seeing the so-called lonely moose removed from Bell Island, N.L. (The National/CBC Archives)

Another option was to move the moose off the island, but that was not acceptable to those who had come to view him as a part of the community.

"Well, this is a real pickle we got here now," said Leo Murphy, a Bell Island farmer. "It'd be a mortal sin to take him out of this. It'd be a crime, I really think."

Wright's report aired just a day before the Bell Island cows were due to move into barns where they would shelter over the winter.

After that, "the poor old moose" would have to return to the woods, where he would roam the trees all alone.

The moose would live out the rest of his life on Bell Island. In November 1994, he died of what wildlife officers said was a heart attack.

His final years hadn't been as lonely though, as a mate was eventually brought to the island to join him. She died a few months before he did. 

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