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Watson the orphaned moose thrives at Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Three months after he first arrived at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, Watson the orphaned moose is healthy and thriving. He's also ready to be seen by the public.

3 months after arriving at the facility, young moose can now be seen by public

Veterinarian Maria Hallock feeds Watson, an orphaned moose, at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Watson was just weeks old when he arrived at the preserve in June, and his survival then was not certain. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

When he first came to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in June, Watson's future was uncertain. It wasn't clear whether he'd survive without his mother to feed and nurture him. 

Three months later, things are looking a lot brighter for the young orphan. He's just been moved into a new enclosure at the Whitehorse preserve that's viewable by the public — indicating that so far, he's healthy and thriving.

"He had a few mild pneumonias on and off, but then he recovers quickly and he's doing very ... good," said Dr. Maria Hallock, a veterinarian at the preserve.

Watson was just weeks old when he was caught by a government biologist near Watson Lake, Yukon, in early June, and brought to the preserve. The animal's mother had been killed on the highway a couple of days earlier. 

Watson when he was being brought to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in June. (Submitted by Bailey White)

At the preserve, Watson quickly befriended another young orphaned moose that had arrived just weeks earlier from the Faro area. But that moose — named Faro — did not fare as well. It died of illness in early July.

Watson has not been lonely, though.

"Of course you bond with them. You have to, because they don't have a mom. So somebody has to replace mom," said Hallock. "In our case, it wasn't just one person, it was a couple ... of course, it's a privilege to feed him and everybody just really loves doing that."

Watson is still bottle-fed, but Hallock says that's as much for comfort at this point as nutrition. She said the animal is eating lots of fruits, vegetables, hay and fireweed, or "everything that a moose is supposed to eat."   

He's been introduced to the facility's other grown moose and if all goes well, he'll join them in the main moose enclosure later this year.

"He's communicating with the females and the male, and it seems like all the animals are really kind of adjusting really well. They've already had nose-to-nose contact, and it's looking good so far," said Hallock.

"Moose are supposed to be solitary animals, however, we've had experience that they actually like to hang out together."

Watson has gotten to know the other moose at the preserve, but is not quite ready to share an enclosure. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

The long term-plan for where Watson lives at the preserve depends on how he gets along with the other moose. Staff should have a good idea of his personality by the time he's about a year old.

Hallock says it's a "beautiful feeling" to see him doing so well, so far.

"It warms our hearts ... It was a lot of hard work and sleepless nights and extra hours, but it's all worth it in the end, when you see him going in there and being so healthy and happy." 

With files from Jane Sponagle

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