Moose attack or needless slaughter? Video raises ethical questions

Before you read any farther (and hopefully, before you view the shocking video that we’ve attached to today’s blog, it’s important to note that we have no reason to suspect that this footage was taken in Maine. In fact, there’s some internet indication that the video was filmed somewhere “out west.”

Now, go ahead. Watch the video. Caution: This is pretty graphic, and it’s not for everyone.

So, why did we show you this video today?

That’s pretty simple: Although we doubt this took place in Maine, it very well could have.

We’ve got thousands of snowmobilers, after all. And according to biologists, we’ve got about 70,000 moose roaming around … often in the middle of snowmobile trails (or, as the moose call it, “home.”)

After watching the video, I was shocked. Stunned, even.

And I began asking the questions that I expect many of you have asked.


“Did he have to do that?”

“What could he have done differently?”

Questions worth considering.

With little knowledge of the situation that unfolds, it’s easy to overreach and peg the shooter as a nut with a gun.

A snowmobiler shoots at a moose in this YouTube video taken in an undisclosed location, likely outside of Maine.

A snowmobiler shoots at a moose in this YouTube video taken in an undisclosed location, likely outside of Maine.

After watching the video for a second and a third time, I determined that the snowmobile rider seems to have stopped for just 10 seconds before he decided it would be a good idea to get even closer to the moose standing in the trail.

We don’t know, however, how long the sledder has been sitting there, waiting for the moose to move along.

Which raises another question: Does it matter?

Many of us have run across stubborn moose during our time in the woods, or riding Maine’s rural roads.

Sometimes, the moose just won’t move. Turn your lights off … and on … or honk your horn … or shout … nothing works.

Another question: At what point, if any, is it a good idea (especially on an open-air vehicle like a snowmobile) to take the fight to the moose? To eliminate that safety cushion, which in this case looks to be 50 yards or so? To say to that animal, in essence, “I’m impatient as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.”

Because whether the snowmobiler in the video realized it or not, that was exactly what he was doing when he drove right up to the moose.

Mark Latti, who works in outreach and communications for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said that if the incident had occurred in Maine, the snowmobiler would likely be charged with a crime.

“When that moose was shot, the person wasn’t be attacked. He would be prosecuted,” Latti said.

And Latti agreed that no matter where the incident took place, Mainers — or those who recreate here — might find themselves in a similar situation.

“Certainly in a snow year like this, it’s not unusual to have animals utilize snowmobile trails,” Latti said. “It’s easier travel for them.”

But Latti said snowmobile riders have plenty of options available that fall far short of pulling out a gun and shooting an animal blocking the trail.

“There are things you can do. One is, you don’t want to escalate the situation. You don’t want to charge it or repeatedly approach it,” Latti said. “You can try to find a way around it by going off trail for a short period, or you can turn around if that option is available.”

Or, you can sit by patiently and enjoy your encounter with a safely distant moose.

“Most of the time, if you leave it alone and it sees you or a group of you, they’ll disperse naturally,” Latti said. “It might take awhile. But if you leave it alone and don’t escalate the situation, that will give it the best shot at wandering off on its own.”

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when the irritated moose balked at being pushed around.

When the moose charged the snowmobiler, I wasn’t surprised, either.

Then the snowmobiler drew down on the moose (after it had retreated), and pumped five shots at or into it. The moose went down. The snowmobiler continued on.

In one on-line explanation, an unidentified poster said that the snowmobiler had a heart condition, and was traveling with his son. That explanation says that the man felt he had to shoot the moose in order to save himself and his son.


Or perhaps the sledder could have been more patient. Perhaps he could have refused to escalate the situation by driving right up to a wild animal that weighed several hundred pounds.

Perhaps he could have sat back, enjoyed the view, and taken advantage of the photo opportunity that had been provided.

Sadly, that’s not what happened. Instead, we’re left with this disturbing video.

Food for thought on another cold Maine winter day.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.