TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Animal control officer Kelly Pettinger tries to stay with a panicked cow moose after it had been tranquilized at J.R. Reid School in Brandon on Wednesday morning. Two moose, a male and a female, wandered into Brandon overnight and were contained in the school field by Brandon Police Service members until the animals could be tranquilized and loaded into a trailer to be released south of town.
It was an unexpected lesson in wildlife for students at J.R. Reid School Wednesday morning, when a pair of moose wandered into the playground.
A pair of moose are seen on the school grounds at J.R. Reid School on Wednesday morning. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Animal control officer Kelly Pettinger falls to the ground while trying to rein in a panicked cow moose after it had been tranquilized at J.R. Reid School on Wednesday.
(TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Animal control officer Brent Castle, left, and Dan Chranowski with Manitoba Conservation, centre, work with others to secure a tranquilized cow moose at J.R. Reid School on Wednesday. Two moose were loaded into a horse trailer and Conservation officers released the pair near the Brandon Hills around 9 a.m. on Wednesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
"It was very surreal," said Jason Curtis, acting principal. "The kids were just … so excited and a little bit scared."
Brandon police officers on patrol notified Manitoba Conservation officials about the moose that had been spotted on the school grounds in the early morning hours. By 6:30 a.m., 26th Street and Park Avenue were cordoned off near the school, and police officers were positioned around the exits of the school yard.
"It was very helpful to keep them within that boundary so that (the moose) weren’t roaming around the city," said Dan Chranowski, regional wildlife manager with Manitoba Conservation.
The animals are estimated to be about two years old, and weigh 400-500 pounds.
Chranowski said the pair likely came from near the Assiniboine River, a natural wildlife corridor, looking to explore.
"This is not moose habitat in the city of Brandon, and they would not normally be attracted to the area whatsoever," he said.
After a few hours on the loose, the moose were safely captured by conservation officers.
"It took a while. We had to make sure we had the right drug combinations and things like that and we had to formulate a plan — where everybody should be, and what they should do," Chranowski said.
Both animals were shot with a tranquilizer dart and were loaded into a horse trailer.
"We were able to get them into the corner of the school yard and one of them got darted," Chranowski said. "It took a little while for it to come down, eventually it got a little bit wobbly and we were able to put a noose in its neck and pull it over."
The second moose took a little longer to go under once it was shot.
"After a while she couldn’t see where the other one went because we had put it in the trailer, and she was a little disturbed," he said.
By 8 a.m. both moose were in the trailer, and they left the site shortly after. They were released near the Brandon Hills around 9 a.m.
All the commotion disrupted the Y and School program, which starts at 7:30 a.m. But the animals were taken away before classes began, so only a handful of students saw the action.
Curtis said the school was abuzz with questions the entire morning, especially from the early years students.
"Some of them thought it was a horse, some thought it was a cow … it was a little lesson in biology," Curtis said. "One of the girls asked, ‘Did he go down a slide?’"
Chranowski said it’s rare for wild animals to wander in the city. He has been in Brandon since the early 1980s and can only recall a few times that there was a case of a moose or bear within city limits.
"Animals like that are not attracted to being close to people or noise," he said. "At night, of course it’s quieter, so that’s why they probably feel a little more safe and they can travel into town."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 7, 2012