We have a minor moose story unfolding in the U.P.: Authorities shot and killed a female of the species Monday. It had wandered into the bustling metropolis of Ishpeming, and after failing to drive it safely out of town, the DNR and local police said they had no choice. They also said their efforts were thwarted by gawkers who surrounded the animal, taking pictures and confusing it. The crowd was also, shall we say, highly critical of the execution. To get a sense of the mood in Ishpeming:
“People are yelling that we should be fired,” (DNR moose biologist Brian) Roell said, “but we had to make a tough, unfortunate decision.”
Police Chief Jim Bjorne said: “We would not have had to kill that cow moose if the public did not act like the paparazzi, chasing it around like it was some type of Hollywood movie star.”
Plenty of residents say the officials made an unconscionable decision. And their anger appears to be spreading.
Take Richard Tyynismaa, 64, a longtime resident. “The police are taking a lot of heat,” he said. “We would like them to explain the hows and whys of what happened. I find this totally offensive. There is absolutely no reason for putting that cow down. If she was acting erratic, it’s probably only because she was just trying to protect her calves.”
Yes, calves, plural. The cow had two spring calves at her side, which disappeared into the woods after the shooting. Moose customarily stay with their weaned young until the following spring, so their chances of surviving winter just went down a bit.
As you can imagine, this incident has spread ripples throughout the state, although, to be sure, it’s also generated some totally awesome headlines, like, ohhhh, “Chief Bjorne speaks out about moose” and Does one moose’s death undermine Michigan’s reintroduction initiative? (DNR says no. The public, however, is furious.) The Free Press outdoors writer knows where to point the finger: Gawkers to blame for U.P. moose debacle, he thunders. Ahem:
A lot of the criticism of the police and DNR was based on sheer ignorance. One writer couldn’t understand why the cops didn’t just lasso the moose and lead it away. I wish I could give that person a lasso, get him to within throwing range of a 1,000-pound, panicked moose and stand back to watch the fun.
People have been killed by moose cows that were protecting calves from what the moose viewed as potential predators. A moose’s hooves are big and sharp, and being kicked by one would be like being hit by a baseball bat swung by the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera.
As for me, I think it’s pretty amazing when a town in the U.P. — a land where rifles surely outnumber people — can generate a) 100-200 mooseparazzi; b) enough people defying direct police order to reach critical mass; and c) animal lovers willing to speak up against the death of a large ungulate. Towns like Ishpeming are kept alive in large part by hunting, after all; one of the best stories I ever read in the Free Press was 20-some years ago, a magazine piece that sketched the weirdness of deer season Up North. (The party stores lay in extra supplies of Juggs and Hustler; entrepreneurs sell freshly killed bucks from pickup beds at bar-closing time, for hunters too loaded to be trusted with a weapon.) In three minutes or so, you can get the same sense from Da Yoopers:
But moose aren’t deer, and are a fairly recent phenomenon in the U.P. The stories mention the DNR’s reintroduction efforts with the species, importing them from Canada. I guess it has been going pretty well; twin calves are usually a sign of good health in the mother and a supportive environment. I guess the Case of the Executed Moose Cow can be chalked up to collateral damage.
A couple years ago, during the annual Brownie camping trip, one of our number was a military wife, who recalled giving birth in a remote Alaska clinic where her husband was stationed. A moose cow took up residence outside her window and proceeded to lick the window glass for hours on end, and no, I don’t know why, either, but she said this was very common in Alaska, that everyone’s windows were smeared with moose saliva. Huh. She also said moose delays were a fact of life, when one or two would wander into your yard and decide to stay a while, and if one was between you and your car, it was a perfectly acceptable reason to call in late to work, as it wasn’t safe to come too close to them.
I saw my first moose up close and personal on Isle Royale. Alan was off fishing and I was taking a little nature walk around our campsite when I came around a bend in the trail and there she was — about as close as my driveway to my neighbor’s, chewing her cud. We looked at one another for a long moment. I looked around for a calf and didn’t see one, and relaxed a bit. We looked at one another a little longer. She went back to ruminating. I turned around and went back. Later that week we passed one standing just off the trail, having a pee. It sounded like a bucket being poured out onto dead leaves. There was another one in Yellowstone Park when I was camping alone, and when I looked out the tent flap without my glasses and saw a large brown thing at the edge of the lake, I nearly had an unscheduled pee myself, but I got my specs on before I let loose and relaxed.
And that’s all the moose I have been privileged to know. There were many spotted from the car in Yellowstone, some of which had calves. There is nothing cuter than a baby moose, and here I am including puppies, kittens and bunnies. They have brown eyes the size of grapefruit and cute floppy ears and comical Bullwinkle noses. The idea of leaving not one but two without their mother is a crime against cuteness, and that can never be tolerated, not in this country.
Where am I going with this? To the bloggage, I hope:
Why even professional-journalist bloggers need editors, so they don’t write ignorant-ass shit like this.
Watching “Red Dawn” and laughing uncontrollably at it is one of my peak memories of the ’80s. David Plotz looks anew at John Milius’ paranoid fantasy and finds it less funny today.
Be the first one on your block to get a ThatOne’08 T-shirt.
I’m off to the gym to get myself in tip-top shape for the coming depression. I should just take up smoking and hope for an early death instead.