Officials are looking for information on the shooting death of a pregnant cow moose Monday near Avon.
Joe Kambic, a game warden with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the TIP-MONT office received a call Tuesday afternoon from some people who reported spotting a calf moose near what appeared to be an injured cow moose northeast of Avon near Carpenter and Ophir creeks.
The calf was spooked away by the people, and by the time Kambic arrived on the scene the cow was dead from multiple gunshot wounds from a small-caliber rifle.
“When we did a necropsy, we found she was bred and was carrying another baby that would have been born this year,” Kambic said. “She was a big, healthy cow … and they shot one moose but took two out of the population. The moose suffered; she was shot Monday and still alive about 3:30 or so on Tuesday.
“This was obviously a thrill kill, and then they left it there to suffer.”
Jay Kolbe, an FWP wildlife biologist, said moose begin reproducing when they’re 2 years old and healthy cows can calve every spring, producing between 10 to 12 calves during their lifetime.
He added that most calves stay with their mothers for about a year, and at this time of year they’re weaned and feeding on vegetation.
“It’s not nursing and is nutritionally independent, but they tend to stay near their family through the following reproductive cycle,” Kolbe said. “The calf should survive; it’s subject to the same mortality risk from predators that it was before the cow was poached, but I’m sure that being with the cow gave it an advantage.”
Kolbe noted that FWP is in the initial year of a moose population study based on anecdotal evidence that their numbers are declining in some areas, due in part to more predators on the landscape and climate changes.
“This is just such a shame, especially since we are concerned about moose generally in Montana,” Kolbe said. “Hopefully they can use some samples from this moose to help with the study.”
Kambic said he and two other wardens were able to salvage the meat and will give it to a food bank.
He’s hoping that someone will call him at 490-1227 or TIP-MONT at 1-800-847-6668 to help track down the poacher. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward up to $1,000 for providing information that leads to a conviction.
“They shot the moose while the calf was just standing there,” Kambic said. “Hopefully, that little guy makes it.”
Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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