Dillabough Bluff in 1951 near Horsefly was plentiful with moose.

Dillabough Bluff in 1951 near Horsefly was plentiful with moose.

Cow moose campaign brings back memories of old days

The recent article featuring the posters to protect the cow moose which was started by a letter Dan Simmons wrote to the editor.

The recent article featuring the posters to protect the cow moose which was started by a letter Dan Simmons wrote to the editor about the poaching of cow moose by hunters, and the relation to the dwindling moose population, reminded me of when our family first came to the Cariboo in 1949, and settled at the Quesnel Station Hatchery situated on Horsefly Lake where the Provincial campground is now located.

There had been a serious burn in 1948. The hills surrounding the hatchery had pretty well been burned off and were already starting to reforest itself with young growth which is perfect feed for moose to winter on.

In the morning when we got up early to go to school, we could look up in the hills and see all these black moose standing out against the snow.  When I was about eight years old, right around Christmas time, I overheard my dad being angry about something, and I asked what was wrong.  He made one of his remarks that went way over my head in a brusque manner, and I got upset.  I decided to run away from home, so armed with a six inch rubber knife Santa had put in my stocking, and wearing my new hat with the earflaps and rubber boots with insoles, and probably a new sweater and old jacket, I ventured out on the frozen Horsefly Lake thinking it would be a short cut to where ever I thought I was going.  There was no real plan, so I changed direction and climbed up Dillabough Bluff from the lake side.

Once at the top, I had a panoramic view of the hills surrounding the bluff.  The whole area was alive with moose.  Fascinated, I set about counting them.  This was made difficult, because they were constantly moving from one point to another.  I was up on the bluff for probably three or four hours and dusk was approaching before my father tracked me down and climbed up and took me home.  I finally settled on 89 as the number of moose I counted that day. I say 89 although a couple of times I came up with 87, but 89s were in the majority, so for the sake of this narrative, 89 is the number.

This was 63 years ago, and times have sure changed.  Moose are a matriarchal society; the bull comes and mating takes place during the rut, and from that point on, the cow takes care of herself and her new born calf, for a year or more, teaching it how to take care of itself until she bears another calf the next year.  It stands to reason that to kill cow moose is to kill off the moose population.

By 1951, there were enough children from the Hatchery, and Gardner’s sawmill, and the Caswell families to justify a school bus run which was contracted by George and Louis Niquidet.

The road ran through Jack and Owen Wynstra’s ranch, and there was a fairly sharp curve around a swampy area.  Some time in March a cow moose and her calf were feeding in the swamp and the calf got high-centered between some willows.   All attempts to rescue the calf were met with charges from poor old Momma moose.  Coming and going from school the driver had to speed up so the moose wouldn’t run into the bus.  The calf eventually died, and the moose moved on.

In 1954, our family was living in the town of Horsefly, having moved to the house now owned by the folks operating the Horsefly Service Station in 1953.  My best friend Joe Thygasen and I rode our bikes to China Cabin corner and were fishing the creek for trout just up from the bridge that existed then when we heard a strange kind of cry coming from the willow thicket across the road.  The thicket was about 150 feet long and 50 feet wide.  We crossed the road and entered the willows.  When we were about five feet into the thicket, we discovered a well beaten path about two feet wide.  The crying came from our right, so we proceed along the path until we came upon the cutest little calf moose.  When he saw us, the hair on his back rose in a ridge, and he let out another cry.  I was patting his back when the ground started vibrating under us, and we could hear some snapping branches.  The cow!

Before we panicked completely, I noticed another trail about a foot through the willows running parallel to the one we were on. We dived through the wall of willows, and raced back opposite the direction the moose was coming.  About three or four seconds or sooner we passed the cow going in the opposite direction.  Adrenalin pumping, feet flying, we reached the end of the willows, and turned toward Beaver Valley Road, raced across the field, squeezed through the rustle fence, rolled into the ditch alongside the road, and peeked back at the field where the moose was.  She ran out of the willows at full speed; her hackles were raised in a black ridge from head to tail, and without a glance either right or left, continued up a trail leading off towards Gravel Creek at roughly 35 miles per hour.  As soon as she was out of sight, Joe and I raced madly back to our bicycles, leaped aboard, and pedaled frantically back to town.  That was the end of our fishing in that area for the year.

I have never hunted moose.  I made a remark once while riding in the jeep with my Dad about killing a moose, and my father, who had been overseas from 1941 to ’46 made a negative remark regarding the term “kill,” which has clouded my judgment regarding moose all my life.  I think they are a magnificent animal, and I’m perfectly happy not to be a moose hunter, although I respect the right and desire of people who do.  Of the many animals in the area, I respect the moose most of all.