Game wardens in Vermont are urging people to keep their distance from wild animals, after an incident over the weekend they say led to the death of a moose.
The animal drowned in Lake Champlain, after swimming across the lake from northern New York, said warden Robert Currier of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, who covers a multi-town district around Burlington.
Currier said moose are good swimmers, adding that it is not rare for the animals to cross bodies of water as the one did on Saturday morning.
However, the problem started when the moose arrived on the shore of South Hero, near the bike path, Currier said.
The warden told necn that people excited to see a moose up close inadvertently ended up scaring the animal, driving him back into the water when they gathered to take cell phone photos.
The exhausted moose was just no match for the wind-whipped swells on the lake that day, Currier said.
“We could tell by watching the moose while it was swimming that the waves were affecting its breathing and affecting its ability to swim into shore easily,” Currier recalled, describing what happened after the moose returned to the water after finding no place to go on shore.
Currier advised the public to avoid close encounters with wildlife, as tempting as it may be to approach animals to observe or photograph them.
“A moose needs space,” Currier said, adding that the same is true of all wild species. “Allow it to feel comfortable in its environment—that way, a situation like this doesn’t occur again.”
In September of 2016, necn witnessed a similar situation in Stowe, but with a better ending.
Folks had gathered around a tree, where two young black bears had climbed to the top.
Only after police sent away the crowd would the cubs climb down and run safely back toward the woods. That incident prompted a plea to the public about interacting with animals, from the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It’s always a spectacle when people spot wildlife,” the department’s Tom Rogers said that day in 2016. “The best thing you can do is kind of keep your distance and move on quickly. Enjoy it, appreciate it, take a photo, but then try to leave the area pretty quickly.”
Rob Swanson is a longtime Vermont photojournalist who now works as a senior staff photographer for The Islander, a newspaper serving the Champlain Islands and distributed throughout the area.
Swanson is encouraging the community to appreciate nature from a distance, as he does, using his professional camera and years of journalism experience to capture images published by The Islander and on its Facebook page.
“My mantra in nature photography is, ‘Observe, don’t harass,’” Swanson told necn Tuesday. “We should all try to interact with nature safely; responsibly. An iPhone—to get a good picture, you’ve got to get close. And just because you can get close to a natural scene doesn’t mean you should.”
Warden Currier said the body of the moose was retrieved from Lake Champlain, and was freshly butchered, with the meat provided to agencies that help feed hungry families in the area.