Moose, ticks and bears, oh my!

Spring is the time of year when animals are most aggressive, so keep your distance, warn experts.

A local wildlife officer is asking people to stay away from moose with the coming spring, whether they are big male moose who might be infested with ticks, or little baby moose that may be abandoned.

Sgt. Shawn Brinsky, a Peace Region wildlife conservation officer, said that over the past three or four weeks, his office has seen increasing reports of animals who show signs of possible tick infestation.

These included rubbing their shoulders, to help ease the itchiness that can come with these tick infestations.

Other signs include lighter coloured hair, or apparently 'bald' spots that are spots where the animal has chosen to bite itself to scratch the itch caused by the ticks.

However, Brinsky said that these tick infestations are cyclic. This year's infestations are not as prevalent as they were in other years and other parts of the cycle, he added.

During one particularly bad year, he said that about one in two moose were infected.

The University of Northern B.C. (UNBC) website encourages people to keep their distance from these animals. If the moose isn't moving, then people are encouraged to cautiously walk away from the animal. If a moose is angry, which people can tell by whether or not the moose's ears are back or down.

Brinsky urged people to watch for moose adapting to human contact.

"Over time they develop a cantankerousness or orneriness about them, from constantly being shooed away," he said.

Spring is the time of the year when these animals are the most aggressive, according to UNBC.

Brinsky said he believed that once more and more snow starts to melt, moose will have an easier time crossing the Peace Region, and more likely to get away from more populated areas.

"We're on the cusp of them starting to disperse," he said.

People in the Peace Region could be help these animals leave the area by not feeding them.

In addition to moose, bears could soon be a potential problem for Peace Region residents.

Brinsky said that "we still need honest days of plus 10 weather for them to come out."

Once these bears do come out, they are often hungry from their long hibernation, and go after ditches or low-lying food in other places.

He urged people to lock up their garbage, compost, and food ditches, as they can otherwise serve to attract these bears to their homes.

In addition, people can buy items like bear bangers - which make loud, shotgun-like noises - to keep them away. These products have "some effect" on moose, as well.

But in other cases, animals don't present a danger to humans; rather, well-intentioned people do.

Brinsky said people should not pick up lone, seemingly abandoned deer or moose calves by the side of the road.

He said that in the spring, many animals have just been born, and aren't quite as developed. These animals cannot keep always keep up to their parents, such as when they are crossing a highway.

In these instances, the young animal's defence mechanism is to lay down at the last spot, in the hopes that the mother comes back, which can happen.

In other instances, the mothers have not abandoned their young, but are eating somewhere else, because they know that the predators are more likely to see larger animals like themselves rather than smaller animals like their young ones, said Brinsky.

The Humane Society also backs-up this advice: "A doe only visits and nurses her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators."

However, in the meantime, motorists, more often in the spring and summer, can come across these animals, and an urge to help kicks in to take these young animals away from the situation.

This is not what people should do, said Brinsky.

"You've probably just killed it off," he said. "The best thing to do when you find an orphaned animal is to leave it alone."

In some cases, these animals are brought back to conservation officers, and the B.C. ministry has "very limited options for wildlife rehab."

In other cases, the new human scent may cause the mother to reject the young, as well.

Even if the animal has been intentionally orphaned, people should still not intervene, according to Brinsky.

"Sometimes you have got to let nature do what it intends to do."

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