News Provincial

Ont. couple heartbroken after moose calf seized by officials

By Alan S. Hale, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

TIMMINS, ONT. - A local couple is heartbroken after the orphaned moose calf they had been taking care of for the past two weeks was seized by conservation officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Robert Mayotte and Donna Young had been taking care of a four-week-old moose which they found wandering on their property on Goose Lake.

Conservation officers, who had received an anonymous tip, arrived on a boat on Wednesday afternoon asking if they had a moose calf.

“I said, ‘Yes there it is,’ and they wanted to see her,” recalled Mayotte. “They looked at her, and they told me ‘You know, you can be charged for this ... at the end of the day, the calf is coming with us.’ I knew there was nothing I could say that would change their minds, so I put her in my boat with my wife, we boated across the lake and put her in the truck. And they took her away; I don’t know where.”

After speaking with Mayotte and Young, the officers took the calf to Cedar Meadows Resort which has experience caring for young moose, deer, and elk.

Bill McCord, the MNRF staff sergeant in charge of conservation officers in Timmins district, told The Daily Press arrangements are being made to send the moose to the Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre in Lively, near Sudbury, where she will be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

This will hopefully come as a relief to Mayotte and Young, who feared at the time The Daily Press spoke to them that calf would be euthanized.

The calf, which the couple had named Faith, was apparently left by its mother on their property two weeks ago and never returned. After discovering the crying moose calf on his property, Mayotte said he waited more than a day to see if the mother would return. When she didn’t, he said he and his wife couldn’t bring themselves to let her starve or be eaten by a bear, so they began feeding her with a bottle.

“So we took her in before the bears did,” he explained.

McCord points out that mother moose often leave their calves alone while they forage for food, which is why the ministry doesn’t want people taking in wild animals they think are abandoned.

“When people intervene and take the animals out of their natural environment, they end up doing more harm than good,” said McCord.

Besides, he said, it is illegal to keep a wild animal captive unless they are properly licenced or are operating an authorized zoo or animal refuge.

While they were taking care of her, Mayotte said they did not keep Faith in any kind of pen or bring her in the house. He said she lived free on the property coming to the house every few hours to be bottle-fed by the couple.

“Then she’d go into the bush and bed down wherever she wanted to,” said Mayotte. “She was quite at home because she was born in my backyard; it was her yard ... I just happened to have my camp there.”

For the days they had her, the couple grew very attached to Faith, with them both fighting back tears as they spoke of her.

“She loved to dance. She would dance to the radio. She would play with our puppies. She loved the radio, and it was a great atmosphere,” said Moyette.

“When I walked into the bush she would walk behind me,” said Young.

When asked what they would have done with Faith had the MNRF not intervened, the couple said they were prepared to look after for as long as she needed them. Moyette said he had started to build her a barn so she could survive the winter.

McCord said the officers observed the calf was well nourished and appeared to have been well taken care of.

Young and Moyette were advised by the officers they they would not be charged with any offense.

But it comes as cold comfort for the couple who say they wish they had been given the chance to get the licence required to take care of her legally.

“We miss her a lot,” said Moyette.

— With files from Ron Grech.