Conservation officers seize moose calf from Ontario couple

A Timmins couple is crushed after conservation officers with the Ministry of Natural Resources seized a moose calf in their care.

The officers received an anonymous tip that Robert Mayotte and Donna Young had been caring for the calf for the past two weeks. According to The Daily Press, the couple found the crying moose wandering their property, which sits on Goose Lake, just east of Timmins. Mayotte told reporters that he waited more than a day after discovering the animal to see if the mother would return. When she didn’t, he and his wife began bottle-feeding the calf, concerned that it might starve to death or get eaten by a bear.

The conservation officers arrived at Mayotte and Young’s place by boat on Wednesday afternoon, when they informed the couple that they could be charged for their actions. The officers also told them that they’d be taking the four-week-old calf with them.

“…I knew there was nothing I could do that would change their minds, so I put her in my boat with my wife, we boated across the lake and put [the calf] in the truck, and they took her away,” he told The Daily Press.

The officers brought the calf to Cedar Meadows Resort, whose staff has experience caring for young ungulates through their Wildlife Park. They then made arrangements with the Wild at Heart Refuge Centre near Sudbury, Ontario, which is where the calf will live until she’s ready to be released back into the wild on her own.

This came as welcome news to Mayotte and Young, who feared the calf would be euthanized after it was taken from them. If the conservation officers hadn’t intervened, the couple said they would have taken care of the calf as long as she needed them.

It’s illegal to hold a wild animal captive if you’re not properly licensed or operating an authorized zoo or animal refuge. But according to reports, the couple never brought the calf into their house or put her in any kind of pen while she was under their care.

Mayotte said that she roamed the property freely, returning to the couple’s camp every few hours for a bottle feeding.

Reporters noted that, after only a couple of short weeks with the calf, Mayotte and Young were noticeably attached to the animal, and even had to fight back tears when 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,” Mayotte said.

But despite their good intentions, Bill McCord, one of the the ministry’s staff sergeants, said there’s a reason they don’t want people taking in wild animals.

“When people intervene and take the animals out of their natural environment, they end up doing more harm than good,” he told The Daily Press.

He also pointed out that it’s common for a cow moose to leave her calves alone while foraging for food, and this calf may not have been orphaned at all.

Still, McCord said the officers did notice the calf was well nourished and taken care of, and Young and Mayotte are not facing any charges.