Canada Amorous bull moose takes up with cattle for third year in Bella Coola Valley

07:42  05 october  2017
07:42  05 october  2017 Source:   Vancouver Sun

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BELLA COOLA VALLEY , B.C. — Locals call him Cowboy. He’s a bull moose with a confident, if misplaced, swagger that has shown up for three straight autumns to mingle with a herd of cattle — and, occasionally, do much more in plain sight alongside Highway 20.

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Cowboy, a bull moose with a penchant for domestic cattle, first showed up in the Bella Coola Valley in the fall of 2015 © PNG Cowboy, a bull moose with a penchant for domestic cattle, first showed up in the Bella Coola Valley in the fall of 2015

BELLA COOLA VALLEY, B.C. — Locals call him Cowboy. He’s a bull moose with a confident, if misplaced, swagger that has shown up for three straight autumns to mingle with a herd of cattle — and, occasionally, do much more in plain sight alongside Highway 20.

“He was trying to mate when I drove by,” conservation officer Steve Hodgson said. “He was going pretty good and the cow wasn’t running away. He looked like he was going for it, going for broke. I didn’t take the binoculars out …”

He added: “I asked in town why they call him Cowboy and they said it’s because he’s always riding the cows. I haven’t seen any cows yet with moose antlers or back ends on them.”

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A bull moose , dubbed Cowboy by wildlife photographer Michael Wigle, hangs out with a herd of cows he befriended in the Bella Coola Valley west of Williams Lake. Wigle said this is the second year a moose has left the Chilcotin for the safety of the valley .

Moose are solitary creatures, but not Cowboy, and certainly not in mating season.

He first joined up with cattle in the Bella Coola Valley in the fall of 2015, sporting just one antler and walking with a limp. Hodgson guesses Cowboy might have had a tussle with a larger bull moose during the annual rut and figured life would be easier — and less competitive — with domestic cattle.

The moose returned in fall 2016 with a complete set of antlers. “Near the end of the season there was a bull moose that got hit by a car, so we were thinking he wouldn’t show up this season, but, lo and behold, there he is again with bigger antlers.”

Cowboy is so comfortable that he reaches over the fence to browse on shrubs just as a horse might, mere metres from motorists on the highway. “He doesn’t care at all,” Hodgson said.

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Scientists are also left scratching their heads. “A confused young moose,” offered Valerius Geist, emeritus professor of environmental science at the University of Calgary.

It’s strange, too, that beefy bulls occupying the same pasture with Cowboy don’t seem to mind sharing the wealth. “That’s the interesting thing,” Hodgson said. “I thought they would have put the run on him long ago. They’re all coexisting.”

There is no limited-entry hunting of moose in the Bella Coola Valley, on B.C.’s Central Coast, although members of the Nuxalk First Nation do have traditional hunting rights.

“Nobody has come to me and said they’re going to shoot Cowboy,” Hodgson said. “I think everybody seems to enjoy having him out there. It’s kind of a novelty.”

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