Meet the new moose on the block

Anyone who's cared for a newborn baby knows the feeling of dragging yourself out of bed every couple hours, bottle in hand, armed for the next feeding. Turns out things aren't much different when you're raising a baby moose.

Anyone who’s cared for a newborn baby knows the feeling of dragging yourself out of bed every couple hours, bottle in hand, armed for the next feeding.

Turns out things aren’t much different when you’re raising a baby moose.

Nine-month-old JB made her public debut at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve last week. But she’s been in the care of the preserve since she was two or three days old.

In those early days, staff slept in an army cot in the rehab centre to make sure she got a bottle of specialized formula every three hours, said the preserve’s executive director, Greg Meredith.

“She was pretty weak and dehydrated and malnourished and it’s a pretty sensitive time for baby animals, especially those who nurse,” he said.

“The mother’s milk in the first two or three weeks of life, that is when it is full of all the super good stuff. A lot of animals, if they miss that, then they’re really struggling. They don’t have the antibodies, they don’t have the resilience.”

Fortunately, the preserve had special wildlife formula on hand that it could modify for moose use.

JB arrived at the preserve in late May 2014 from Burwash Landing.

Her mother had two babies at that time, but somehow got spooked, leaving the second baby behind, Meredith said.

“She just kind of abandoned it.”

JB ended up on someone’s back deck.

Meredith said the homeowners did the best they could to help the moose. They wrapped her in a blanket to avoid transferring human smells and brought her to the area where the other moose were.

Pretty soon she was back at the deck, Meredith said. That’s when conservation officers came to pick her up.

She wasn’t much to lift. Apparently a newborn moose looks a little like a house pet on stilts.

“When she’s lying down on the floor she looked about the size of a cocker spaniel, and then when she stood up and she had a-foot-and-a-half length legs,” Meredith said.

She’s now about 150 kilograms. By the time she’s all grown up she’ll have more than doubled that.

As tiny JB got stronger, the preserve wanted to make sure she got all the necessary exercise.

So she would go for daily walks, often with her new best friend, animal care assistant Justine Benjamin.

“Until she met the male moose just last week, who knew if she even knew that she was a moose?” Meredith asked.

“She’d never seen a moose in her life. So she of course bonded with Justine.”

The bond was strong enough that when it was time for JB to take her walk, all Benjamin had to do was walk out the back door of her enclosure and into the rehab centre’s back yard, and JB would follow.

“So they’d take her for a walk everyday and get her outside to make sure she was moving and had her strength up. Once she got more energy she would do some prancing around and some chasing around, just generally being a kid,” Meredith said.

“That was all a really good sign.”

The bond between the moose and her caregiver was so strong that the preserve decided the two should share a name. JB is in honour of Benjamin’s initials.

It’s uncommon for the preserve to name its animals. But every so often an exception will appear.

“Once in a while they just break through to your heart and you’ve just got to do it,” Meredith said.

JB will call the preserve home for the rest of her life. Since she was raised by humans at such a young age she can’t be rehabilitated back to the wild.

It will be up to the preserve’s seven-year-old bull moose to teach her what it means to be a moose.

The two came face to face for the first time last week.

“We’ve been very pleased with how they are getting along, he’s not too aggressive or anything.”

This is the perfect time to introduce the pair, he said. The male moose has lost his antlers and his testosterone levels are quite low.

“He’s big enough that if he were to try and mount her at this stage he could break her back.”

For now JB is spending her days in the 34-acre enclosure with the other moose. At night the pair is separated.

Meredith jokes that that’s mostly so staff can sleep soundly at night.

But he predicts it won’t be long before the pair is living together full-time.

“From all appearances it shouldn’t be long. Even when we separate them there’s just a fence between them and they tend to lie with each other one on either side of the fence.”

Anyone who wants to come see JB should check the preserve’s website for operating hours.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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