New Moose Calves
Moose x-ray December 2012
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park staff members are rearing three orphaned moose calves in a three-state effort to save the animals.
Follow the growth and development of Northwest Trek Wildlife Park’s three orphaned moose calves
8 December 2012
In our last installment, the
moose behavioral training program was mentioned. One of the first things we did in our
training program was to teach the moose calves the concept of a bridge, in our
case we use a dog whistle. A bridge is
used to tell an animal ‘good job, your reward is on the way’, basically it
bridges the gap between the behavior and reinforcer, hence its name. To teach the animals what the whistle bridge
meant, we simply paired it with a favored food item – like a slice of
apple. After a few rounds of
‘whistle-treat, whistle-treat, whistle-treat’, the moose quickly learned that
every time they heard the whistle something good followed, so they learned to
work to hear this sound.
The training has progressed to
what we call husbandry behaviors. These
are behaviors that facilitate management and veterinary care. When working in free contact, that is without
a fence or other barrier between the trainer and animal, we have been working
some ‘tactile training’ with the two smaller moose. This consists of using a verbal cue ‘touch’,
touching or manipulating a part of the moose’s body, and bridging and rewarding
if the animal calmly accepts the touch.
This tactile training, along with the strong relationships developed
during the bottle feeding of these young moose, has recently paid dividends in
helping us to evaluate our smallest moose – the Idaho female – for lameness in
her left rear leg. Keepers and
veterinary staff were able to voluntarily take x-rays of her foot and lower
leg, to help look for potential injuries.
Without the ability to work so closely with this moose calf, it would
have been necessary to sedate her for these x-rays, which would have greatly
increased her stress and possible risks during these tests.
You might have picked up on the
fact that only the two smaller moose are being trained in free contact at
times. That’s because our largest
animal, the Alaska female, now tips the scales at over 400 pounds, and she has
a tendency to get overly enthusiastic at times.
So we’ve decided that her favorite treats and the training sessions that
she appears to enjoy are safest when done in a protected contact setting – in
this case through a chain link fence.
The keepers do still go in with all three moose daily for care and
cleaning, but since training sessions tend to get them a bit more excited, we
try to set these up to be as safe as possible for all concerned.
Husbandry training can be done
in protected contact too, though, and all the moose are in the early stages of
learning a ‘line up’ behavior, where they line up parallel to the chain link
fence, allowing us easy access the side of their body. This behavior can be a building block for
teaching voluntary injections, where the moose would be taught to press their
hip up against the chain link and allow a vaccination or other needed
injection. This has been done
successfully in many zoos and wildlife facilities with a wide variety of
species, so there’s no reason we can’t teach the moose this behavior, if we
have enough time before they ‘graduate’ to a larger holding space or the free
We’ll keep you updated on the
moose training as it progresses, and next time, learn how we enrich three moose
Don’t forget to check out past
issues of Moose Memoirs, as well as
other information on our three calves, by clicking on “Meet the Moose” on the
left side of this webpage. And thanks to
those who have donated via the link below to help care for our moose babies,
we’ll be drawing our next behind-the-scenes tour winner very soon!
You can donate
today to help Northwest Trek care for our three moose calves! Your tax
deductible donation will help fund food, supplies, enrichment items, and keeper
staff time to care for the moose babies and other animals at Northwest Trek.
WIN A BEHIND-THE-SCENES TOUR TO MEET THE MOOSE CALVES!
All people donating $25 or more each month will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner each month will receive a behind-the-scenes tour at our quarantine area to see our moose youngsters. Don’t miss your opportunity for this once in a lifetime experience! To donate, click the button below, and thanks for your support of the animals at Northwest Trek!
Congratulations to Donna Powell for being our
first moose calf tour winner, and thanks for your support!