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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Mystery Moose

Air Date: Week of September 28, 2001

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Host Steve Curwood speaks with Rick Ward, a biologist from the Yukon Territory in Canada. It appears that some hunters there shot what they thought was a bull moose. But despite its set of antlers, the moose wasn't as manly as it appeared.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth, I'm Steve Curwood. Recently hunters in the Yukon territory of Canada shot a young bull moose, or so they thought. Despite the fact that the moose had a set of antlers, the hunters soon discovered that the animal was missing a few other things you might expect to find on a male moose. Here to talk about this mystery moose is Rick Ward, a biologist with the Yukon government. Mr. Ward, please describe for me what these hunters found when they went to butcher the moose

WARD: Well, when they got up to the animal and started to handle it, they realized that, except for the fact that it had antlers, it appeared in every other respect to be a cow moose.

CURWOOD: I gather these hunters got in touch with authorities because it's not legal to shoot a cow moose, and I guess this is how you heard about the incident, huh?

WARD: Well, it's not legal to shoot a cow moose, but I suspect it was more the fact that they realized that this was something quite unusual and they wondered what was going on.

CURWOOD: What did you think, when you heard about a cow moose with antlers?

WARD: Well, I was actually quite excited, I was quite interested, of course. I've never seen a hermaphroditic moose before, and in fact I've never talked to anybody who has said that they have seen them, so it is quite unusual. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see the animal personally, because it was disposed of before I had a chance to get there.

CURWOOD: What is there in the way of pictures?

WARD: We do have some pictures but unfortunately the person who took them is not going to get any awards for photography, so they're a bit fuzzy and they don't show things as well as they might. Dead moose photography is definitely a specialized skill, I suspect.

CURWOOD: Well, what do you make of this animal?

WARD: At the genetic level, there are a couple, several possible explanations in fact, in terms of having multiple X and multiple Y chromosomes or perhaps having only one X or Y chromosome. But, in this case, I suspect, although I'm not sure because we haven't had a chance to do the necessary analysis, but I would expect that it was a hyperactive adrenal gland, perhaps, that was putting out more testosterone than it should.

CURWOOD: How do you think the moose regarded this moose?

WARD: Well, that's an interesting question and one that I've been asked several times. It's hard to say. But there is some evidence that it, in fact, bred successfully in the past, so apparently it got along reasonably well with the other moose and, at least on some occasions, things went as they should.

CURWOOD: What did they do with this moose?

WARD: Well, the moose actually also had a fairly significant infection where it had either impaled itself on some sharp object or where it had been injured by another moose. So our enforcement people suggested that the hunter not eat the moose, and it was given to a dog musher, to be used as dog food.

CURWOOD: I've heard that you're trying to get the antlers. Any progress in that?

WARD: Not yet. I'm still working on it. I've been talking to the local folks up there, and they said that they would try to get in touch with the hunter and see if they could get them for me.

CURWOOD: Now, Mr. Ward, I understand that there was another sighting of a moose like this a number of years ago. What do you suppose it has to do with, you know, that snow that falls up there in Yukon?

WARD: Well, I expect that it's probably just a coincidence that these two animals were shot in the same general area.

CURWOOD: Rick Ward is a biologist with the Yukon government. Hey Rick, thanks, thanks so much.

WARD: You're quite welcome.

 

 

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