WILMINGTON — A bull moose on the loose in the Wilmington Notch since Saturday was euthanized Tuesday after officials found it to be gravely injured.
Rangers from the State Department of Environmental Conservation reassessed the animal's health before making the decision to remove it from the area due to its deteriorating health and concern for public safety, according to a statement from that agency.
DEC Spokesman David Winchell said an evaluation of the moose revealed significant injuries to both its hind legs and the animal may have hurt itself trying to climb in and out of the rocky notch.
"Euthanizing wildlife is always the option of last resort," he said. "Due to the moose's deteriorating condition, it is unlikely (it) would have been able to remove itself from the ravine and the animal most likely would have died there.
"Removal of the moose while it was alive was unsafe for both the moose and people involved in that activity."
State Police in Wilmington first fielded calls from concerned citizens on Saturday, when the moose snarled traffic after onlookers stopped to sneak a peek of the animal in the water of the West Branch of the Ausable River.
With the assistance of DEC forest rangers, police were able to get the animal back into the woods by nightfall, but Winchell said the moose had returned by Sunday morning.
Winchell said word of the animal's appearance drew curious crowds along the narrow road going through the notch.
"The mix of cars stopping in the road, people on foot on the road and moving vehicles with people looking for the moose and not watching the road created unsafe conditions," he said.
"A number of near collisions have occurred."
The animal's carcass was sent to the DEC Pathology Laboratory in Delmar, where it will be evaluated.
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