Moose pays high price for chasing men up a tree

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Steinar Holst Nilsen was out walking his dog near the airport at Brønnøysund in northern Norway last week when an ill-tempered moose went on the attack.

Nilsen says he didn’t have a chance at running away, so there was only one thing to do: Climb the nearest tree. Quickly.

“The moose was charging towards me,” Holst Nilsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). When asked what he would have done if there wasn’t a tree nearby, he said he would have tried lying down and counting to 100. “But I doubt that would have helped,” he said.

Holst Nilsen works at the airport and knows the area well. He first encountered the moose, which had a newborn calf, the day before but both mother and calf were calm and slipped away through a fence.

When he met them again, the mother moose was anything but calm. Moose are known for vigorously defending their offspring if they feel threatened, and this one apparently was.

Holst Nilsen’s dog couldn’t climb the tree, and was repeated charged by the moose. The dog stayed on the ground under the tree. After a while, a jogger ran into the scene and discovered Holst Nilsen in the tree, the dog on the ground, the moose and her calf. The jogger, a pilot for Widerøe Airlines, soon ended up in the tree as well.

There they sat, Holst Nilsen and Captain Øystein Strømme, while the moose stamped her feet and snorted. She wasn’t about to let them come down. They tried to warn others passing by in the popular recreation area.

After about an hour, Holst Nilsen finally called for help on his mobile phone. Both the moose and the calf were shot, which set off protests from several readers of NRK’s web site and a local animal rights group.

The group, called NOAH, harshly criticized wildlife authorities for allowing the moose and calf to be destroyed. “This wasn’t aggression, but behaviour that’s absolutely necessary for animals to raise their offspring,” said Jenny Rolness of NOAH. “That should demand understanding and respect, not the reaction displayed here.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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