“Her and I bonded on the drive home. I mean, geez, we spent like five and a half hours in the van together.”
It’s always nice to have company on a long road trip, but in this case, a Fort Nelson, BC man says he encountered the unexpected companion of a baby moose, who willingly jumped into the passenger seat of his truck to escape from the jaws of a waiting black bear.
But Mark Skage said he was fired for the act. His employer, AFD Petroleum Inc., let him go for violating wildlife protocols.
Skage told Breaking: that she was traveling north of Fort Nelson when she noticed the calf was alone on the side of the road, with no mother in sight. After the pup nearly got hit by some cars, he decided to pull over to try to scare her off the side of the road.
However, when he opened the car door, the calf trotted off and began trying to get into his truck.
“After the second time she tried to get in, I looked across the road, I just looked over there, and halfway down the ditch, maybe like 50 yards, there was a black bear standing there,” Skage said.
“I just couldn’t do it, in my heart. People can say all they want. I know as outdoorsmen we talk about predator control… Black bears are the number one predator for those calves. So So I thought, ‘Well, I can’t take care of the predator, but I guess maybe I can try to help this little calf.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says that in northern areas where grizzly bears are rare, black bears have been known. to kill up to 40 percent of the elk calves.
After waiting a while to see if the calf’s mother would show up to chase the bear away, Skage decided to take the calf with him, calling the BC Conservation Officers Service en route to find a place for the calf to stay.
Several days later, the calf was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center.
Skage said that often the right decision in situations like this is to let nature take its course. But in this case, he made a decision to help the hatchling and he felt it was the right one, especially since he later found out that the hatchling is a female.
“It wasn’t just one moose calf that God saved. It was a lot…She’s going to grow up and have lots of babies, and her babies will have babies. I think that’s positive. I believe that in my heart.”
AFD Petroleum Inc., however, thought otherwise.
The company said in a statement that it is aware of videos on social media showing the incident, and that it is working with provincial authorities and will provide them with any information they may need.
AFD said Skage’s actions violated company protocols around interactions with wildlife.
“Rather than report the situation to a conservation officer and allow authorities to handle the rescue and relocation of the moose, the individual made an independent decision to transport an uninjured moose calf, a wild animal, in the front seat of the company vehicle for long hours,” AFD Petroleum Chairman Dale Reimer said in an emailed statement.
“This not only put the employee and other road users at risk, but also caused distress and damage to the moose.”
The BC Conservation Officers Service also confirmed that it is investigating the incident.
Breaking: has requested more information from the service about that investigation.
Skage told Breaking: that he doesn’t endorse anyone else to do what he did, noting that he has some experience with wildlife and has acted as a consultant to various companies, helping them create their own wildlife protocols.
More than that, handling or moving a wild animal from its place is illegal.
“It is against the law to collect wild animals off the road or from the wild, anywhere. It is illegal to be in possession of wildlife and to transport it,” Skage said.
Skage said he is willing to pay any fines he may be charged for his actions, but in this case, he still believes he was right.
WildSafeBC program manager Lisa Lopez told Breaking: that, in addition to the issue of legal repercussions, it can be dangerous to attempt to handle any type of wildlife.
“These animals are wild animals, you know, we don’t know what kind of reaction they’re going to have, you don’t know what kind of animal is around. The mothers of the young are going to protect their young.” said Lopez.
“So it’s always the best idea to do the best you can to get away. Provide space. If you can, keep an eye on the animal and then call the experts to make sure, but definitely keep space between you and that animal.”
If you come across an animal that you think may be injured or sick, the provincial government says there are different agencies you should report the incident to, depending on the type of wildlife in question. It can be dangerous to touch or handle sick, injured, or dead animals.