UPDATE: Here is a follow-up to this story featuring info on dashcam footage, AFD’s response and the Fort Nelson man’s response: https://energeticcity.ca/2023/07/17/fort-nelson-man-fired-over-baby-moose-rescue-disputes-previous-employers-allegations/
FORT NELSON, B.C. — A moose calf saved by a Fort Nelson man is doing well and adapting nicely, according to the Rimrock Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Dawson Creek.
The calf, affectionately called Misty by the man who saved her, is spending time outdoors during the day and indoors at night for her safety, according to Corinna Harvey, who runs the centre with her family.
Mark Skage was on his way home from work on June 6th when he rescued the baby moose from a potential bear attack, which resulted in him being fired from AFD Petroleum Inc.
Skage said he spotted Misty on the opposite shoulder of Highway 97, noting that he almost witnessed the moose get hit by multiple vehicles. As he pulled up near Misty, he said he scanned the area to assess the situation and locate the calf’s mom.
“My plan as I pulled up to the calf, across the highway from it, was that I was going to jump out and try and shoo him off the road so that it didn’t get hit by a vehicle,” Skage said.
However, when he opened the door, he said the calf started trotting across the highway.
“It was acting weird. It didn’t want to leave the truck, and then it kept trying to get into the driver’s side of the truck through the open door,” Skage said.
He looked back to where the calf had come from and noticed a bear standing there.
“I just knew immediately what was going on, and I knew for absolute certain that if I didn’t give some form of protection, then that calf was going to die right there,” Skage explained.
The Fort Nelson man said he “went into protector mode” and shooed the calf around to the truck’s passenger side and got her in.
“As I came around, that bear was still standing there watching me,” Skage said.
The bear hung around for a bit, but so did Skage in an attempt to see if the mom would come back.
“She never did, so I said, ‘Well shucks, I don’t know when this little tike ate last, I don’t know what’s happened, I have no information to go off of before I got here,’” Skage explained.
“I just said, ‘Well, let’s get to town and get you some help.”
Approximately five and a half hours later, when he had cell service, Skage left a message with the conservation officer in Fort Nelson, and called his supervisor to inform her of the situation.
“I sent her a couple of pictures, and she said, ‘Oh my god, that’s crazy cute,’” Skage said.
By then, he said it was getting late, and after some phone calls, he found someone who could feed the calf and even had a pen to put her in.
Later that day, Skage said he got another call from his supervisor, who reportedly said, “I think that we can’t do that. You should’ve just let it die.”
Skage said he told his supervisor that he couldn’t do that.The following day, he was sent to work in southern B.C. and asked what the plan was regarding the baby moose.
“I told her I’ve talked to the conservation officer, and they said that in a couple of days, they were going to take [the calf] to a rehab centre in Dawson Creek,” Skage said.
The day after working in southern B.C., he was called again and asked to be in Edmonton first thing in the morning to have a meeting with AFD representatives.
“I went down there the next morning, I went to the meeting, they asked a bunch of questions, and I made a statement,” Skage explained.
“I gave them all the information. There’s no damage to the vehicle. That little moose never even pooped in the truck the whole way down.”
While AFD did their internal investigation, he was ineligible to work for five days, Skage said.
Around June 15th, they called him and said they had decided to terminate his employment.
The Fort Nelson man and former AFD employee admitted he was pretty mad about how they handled the situation initially, but after some thinking, he recalled some of AFD’s environmental practices he wasn’t okay with.
Skage also wanted to emphasize that he does not suggest anybody else pick up a wild animal.
“My only argument is I did what I did based on my knowledge, my experience and my decision-making process at that time.”
Skage said he knew the risks involved in picking up the calf and the laws in place to protect wildlife.
“Because let’s face it, there is a bit of a problem with people picking up baby critters this time of year, and 99 per cent of the time, it is the wrong call,” Skage said.
“Just because the baby was alone didn’t mean that it was in need of rescue.”
Skage called the scenario he found himself in “one in a million.”
“At the end of the day, my son’s proud of me, I’m proud of my actions, my friends are proud of me, so I’m good with it,” Skage said.
“There’s been an investigation by the conservation service, and they’ve deemed that there was nothing nefarious [about the incident.]”
Energeticcity.ca has reached out to AFD for comment and a statement will be added to this story when it is provided on Monday, July 17th.