A moose swimming in a Sault Ste. Marie river was found dead in the waterway Tuesday, despite efforts by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) staff to guide the animal to safety.
A statement from Parks Canada said the moose was first spotted in the upper approach of the recreational lock about 7 a.m. ET Tuesday.
The animal was in the water for under an hour, clearing the lock, and made its way to a nearby island with the help of Parks Canada staff.
Around 10 a.m., ministry officers called Parks Canada to say the moose re-entered the water and was found dead.
‘An iconic, Sault Canadiana moment’
Alana Kenopic, Sault Ste. Marie’s manager of travel and tourism, said she saw the moose in the canal while she was guiding a tour of fishermen out to the Whitefish Island rapids.
Other parks staff had also gathered along the Canadian National Historic Canal site, watching the animal paddle through the locks.
Kenopic said she recorded the moose’s time in the water on her phone to show her nine-year-old daughter.
“I thought that she would love to see that … it was so unique. When I came into the office, I shared [the video] with my colleagues and said, ‘look how amazing this is. It’s an iconic Sault Ste Marie, Canadiana experience.”
Kenopic posted the short video, which shows the moose paddling through the lock, on the Sault Ste Marie Tourism page. Within hours, the post had amassed thousands of views.
It’s not the first time a moose has been seen paddling through the lock, she said.
In what she called a “replica situation,” in 2019, a moose was helped through the lock by Parks Canada staff.
“He swam over to the other side where he found shallow ground and popped out,” she said. “They knew that that was a good approach and decided that they were going to do the same for this young moose that was in the canal.
“They brought him into the bay and lowered the water level down, where it took about 15 minutes for the water level to come down to the same level as the [lower] St. Mary’s River,” she said. “Then they opened the canal door and he swam.”
Although the moose likely died shortly after the video was taken, Kenopic said, she has no doubt staff did their best.
“Everybody at the canal had that moose’s best interest in mind. They were just trying to get him to safety as quickly as they could and figured that that was the best approach to prevent him from any harm.
“Regardless of the outcome, I know it was done with great intent, and I give them a lot of credit for working swiftly to try and get him through there.”
Capture myopathy likely led to drowning, ministry says
Jolanta Kowalski, a spokesperson with the MNRF, said the moose likely died from stress-related issues.
“It is believed that the stress and exertion of swimming may have led to capture myopathy,” Kowalski said in an email. “Capture myopathy occurs when over-exertion or extreme stress causes physiological imbalances that result in severe muscle damage and even death.
“In this circumstance, capture myopathy likely led to drowning.”
Staff from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans took the dead moose to a local marina in Sault Ste. Marie, where it was loaded onto a truck and taken away, Kowalski said.