I would like to tell you the story about my little Emma.
Emma is a Shiras Moose, the smallest species of any North American moose. She has been with me since she was 2-3 days old and I have been raising her.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Clio and her crew from the Ecological Institute in Cochrane, AB. She has a permit for wildlife rehabilitation from the provincial government. There are no words that could describe the amazing things they do everyday since 1967.
The start was a challenge, as I could never prepare myself for what was to come, and I have never even seen a moose calf before however if I look at it now... I would do it again any time. Emma has given me so much!
But let’s go to the beginning of the story...
A concerned neighbor found a moose calf caught in barbed wire in the bush. With no sign of the mother for hours. He decided to save her and put her in our barn as he didn’t have a place to put her in himself.
I was curious and a little scared. I have only seen three moose before and they were from a distance. That‘s it!
My thought was: "Now I should take care of one? Oh dear..."
All of my doubts disappeared the first time I saw Emma. She was so adorable! I knew right away it was my responsibility to make sure that she would be okay. First priority was to buy milk replacement and start bottle feeding her.
Easy to say.. tough to implement! Emma screamed and tried to attack me whenever I came close. I could see she was terrified. I went down on my knees, as not to scare her but she kept attacking me, the poor little thing.
There was no way I could get her to eat anything and I was sure she hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours.
So I decided to give her time to get used to being in my presence. I placed a bucket to sit on in the corner of the stall and waited with her. A couple hours later, she was okay with me being there and laid down. I even managed to get some milk into her. Good enough for now.
I tried to spend as much time with her as I could. As soon as I got home from work, I would head out to be with her. I would read books and try to talk a lot on the phone, so she would get used to the sound of my voice.
The first few days I stayed with her until late and tried to feed her every couple hours then went to bed after. She still wasn`t sure about me and cried a lot when we were together. She would get scared as soon as I would move. I would feed her at midnight to end the day and would go back to feed her at 5:30 in the morning. I didn’t know if she had spent time with her mom at all or how long she had been caught in the fence with no food so I was afraid that she would not make it.
But she warmed up quickly! And so did I. It didn’t take long to go from "I have to take care of her because she needs someone" to "I want to spend time with her!" I named her Emma and that was it – I was in love. Anyone who has raised a moose will understand why it is so easy to get attached to them! They are smart and very different from any other animal.
I did a lot of research on what moose need and eat however it was very hard to find information about moose calves. A friend of mine found a story about someone that raised a moose in Lithuania. I found his profile on Facebook and he was even willing to talk to me on the phone. He helped me quite a bit in doing a perfect job with Emma.
One day she tried to drink out of the water bucket, that was placed on the ground, but couldn`t reach it as her legs are too long and her neck too short. She was trying so hard until she lost her balance and tipped over into the water head first. Oh Emma! But she is a tough little moose and tried again right away. This time I helped her by bending both front legs to kneel her down. And holy cow! It worked. She was drinking lots of water and I was super happy. It almost seemed like she too was proud of what she just learnt. From then on she knelt down a lot to reach things on the ground. Moments like that happened more and more! It was awesome to watch!
Emma impressed me everyday.
I spent every single minute of my two days off work with her. I built myself a little bed in her stall, studied, watched movies with Emma and even slept in the barn. She was still not eating a lot and I had to force her to drink milk. Otherwise she wouldn’t have eaten enough. It took about 30 min to feed her one bottle of 250ml.
She grew very curious in those two days. She started approaching me. She would lay down right next to me and put her head on my belly. She fell asleep while I was petting her. All of this warmed my heart. I could see how she was trusting me more and more by the hour.
She was now following me and coming up to me instead of whining and looking for a way out. She would even look to me when I would say her name.
She wasn’t scared of me at all anymore. She was excited when I would come into the barn and she would jump up on me. She had adopted me as her mom!
Emma ate more and more everyday. We were cutting lots of willow branches for her and fed her milk as often as we could. She was hungry all the time. Clio told me that moose like bananas. And oh boy do they ever!! Emma is crazy about bananas and is all over me as soon as I have one in my hand. Very funny!
The first time she ventured out of the barn was a very exciting day for all of us. Emma followed me out but was overwhelmed with the open space and all the things she saw. I could see she didn`t feel fully comfortable so I brought her back into the barn after a few minutes. A big adventure for a little moose and for me as well, as I didn’t know what was going to happen.
We tried again the next day and it seemed like she was much better prepared this time. She trusted me and just followed wherever I went. I went down on my knees and picked at some grass and she mimicked my actions. That was a very special moment for me that I will never forget. She would do everything I do, experiencing it and would decide afterwards for herself if she liked it or not. Like I said before... she impressed me everyday.
From then on, her trust in me made our shared experiences very easy. I would just open the barn door and she’d come out with me. We went for walks everywhere. We explored the pond and the bushes close by to get a snack. I would sit in a chair and she’d cruise around eating leaves off the bushes without going too far away from where I was hanging out. When she had had enough, she’d come up to me and lay down.
She had grown a lot, doubling her size in the first two weeks, and started growing a moose nose. She was getting more confident by the day and developing her own personality. Eating was no longer an issue at all. She now wanted more and more and more! She would now finish one bottle of 500ml in ten seconds. And I am not exaggerating!
As soon as Emma became strong and healthy enough to be on her own, we brought her to Clios’ home. On her 160-acre property she has everything a moose needs. There are other animals like buffalo and deer she can hang out with and can go exploring all day. Even though I knew this was the right thing to do and Emma would be happy, the day we brought her to Clios was a very sad day for me. It was hard to see her go and knowing she is not going to be with me anymore every morning. I miss her a lot!
She is now doing so well here, at Clios’ place, and loves to lay in the high grass. She has a little shelter where she can hide if it rains and plenty of food. I come out here as often as I can to spend time with her. But I know that she is in the best hands!
For Emma and I, this is definitely a happy ending and I can‘t wait to watch her growing up!!
All this would not have been possible without all the support of Clio and so many supportive friends!
Clio thank you so much for everything! You are a wonderful person!
Mitch thank you for making this possible.
Thanks to Paul for bringing straw and for feeding her when I had to be at work! Thank you Melanie, Sonja and Erikas for being a 24/7 moose crisis hotline. Thanks so much Leanne for coming out to take these amazing pictures. And thanks to Shane for helping me with building this blog. Also a big thank you to everyone that has been so interested in Emmas progression. Thanks for all your help! Emma and I appreciate it so much!!
To all the people out there that might be in a similar situation, I hope you have the courage to do it! I am so happy Emma has the chance to live a life as a happy moose and I had the opportunity to become a moose mom, as it was something very special to me. She has taught me so much and I am so happy to be a part of her life. But if you do find yourself in a similar situation please remember... Do it right! Don’t hide any wildlife in your yard! There are specialists that have been doing this for years and have the experience. It is not easy to raise any kind of wild animal and it is a big responsibility!
Thanks so much for reading our little story! Life is good!!
Carola and Emma
I would also like to use this opportunity to draw attention to Clios Ecological Institute!
It is absolutely amazing what they do! They are such good people with the biggest hearts I have ever seen.
Clio and her crew don't get any money from the government to save wildlife. They're doing it because they love it! They're running a dog kennel that pays for the other animals. How amazing is that?
So if you have a dog, you live in the Calgary area and you need someone to take care of it while you are on vacation? Clio is the right address!! It's a beautiful place to bring your dog to and you are helping lots of other animals at the same time. www.happytailsretreat.com
Click on the logo down below to read more about them.