Difficult snow conditions have driven a young moose to take shelter in the Columbia Park neighbourhood. Normally, moose are able to cope with deep foot-penetration, but January storms delivered more than double the average precipitation for the month.
This moose likely came from the Jordan Valley, swimming across the Columbia River to the golf course. Now in town, it uses ploughed roads to get around to browse on the buds of shrubs and small trees. It spent one night bedded down in the front yard of the Conservation Officer, prompting his children to post a warning sign on the entrances of the riverside pedestrian trail. Ranging at least as far as the Super 8 Motel, it is most often seen near the golf course.
Moose can be aggressive if approached. Left alone, a moose in winter will conserve its energy, moving as little as possible only to forage or avoid predators. However, persons walking dogs should realize that a moose will perceive dogs as similar to wolves, the predators that moose instinctively know are a threat.
Wolves gain advantage at hunting moose when a thaw is followed by cold temperatures. This scenario creates a snow crust strong enough to hold a wolf, but is too weak to carry a moose. Wolves can run on this kind of surface but moose just posthole into the unconsolidated snow. We had this cycle of weather in January and this may have contributed to the decision of this moose to enter a settled area.
Conservation Officer Adam Christie told me that there are no wolves near Revelstoke. I am guessing that this moose understands its vulnerability in these snow conditions and moved into town just in case.
How smart is a moose? Most of them are smart enough to stay alive where conditions permit. Those are the ones that live to reproduce. However, like most animals and some people, they lack an understanding of the speed of a vehicle on the highway. In winters of great snowfall, moose will use highways as an easier way to get to where they are going, usually at night. Drive accordingly.
Moose also don’t understand trains. On a hard surface, moose expect to be able to out run a threat. Some are killed on the tracks, despite the efforts of engineers.
Fortunately, overall moose population numbers are good. This region has many clear cut areas that have grown up with the types of shrubs moose eat. In some years, wildlife managers are even concerned about an abundance of moose, which would cause wolf numbers to increase, which could incidentally impact the tenuous caribou population.
Wildlife biologists have equations to help predict how populations may change with variables such as predation, food supply, and birth rate change, but these are about as accurate as weather forecasts. In comparison, rocket science is more straightforward. Physics has laws for mass and velocity. Animals have instincts and behaviours.
When walking or driving in moose country, be prepared for moose that are behaving according to their need for food and security. The Columbia Park moose will likely be with us until snow conditions change.