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Josh Hohm of Bozeman went to the West Boulder Campground on Monday, planning to camp for the night, when a newborn moose calf walked right up to him.

Initially, Hohm was afraid the mother was just around the corner ready to charge. But the calf’s mother and twin, both found nearby, died during childbirth.

“Clearly I’m not going to leave the little guy there,” Hohm said.

Hohm stayed with the calf, held the animal, snapped a few photos with it and even took a video of it crying.

After reporting it to local authorities, Hohm thought the animal would be cared for, but a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks official later killed the calf. The U.S. Forest Service then used explosives to get rid of the carcasses of all three moose, spreading the proteins that might attract predators like grizzly bears to the campground.

Hohm is now outraged that the calf is dead, but wildlife officials say they followed protocol.

Hohm said he expected that the agencies would find a new home for the calf, not kill it.

“It’s just unbelievable to me that that’s how things are handled,” Hohm said. “It just sounds incredibly wrong.”

He said FWP should have looked into finding a new home for the calf, but FWP spokeswoman Andrea Jones said the agency had no other option.

“We don’t move or rehabilitate moose,” Jones said.

FWP occasionally takes in bears or raptors to rehabilitate them, but not moose, elk or deer. Jones said the risk of disease transmission is too great for them to do that.

Because of that, they couldn’t take the calf in. Leaving it in the wild wasn’t an option either, Jones said, because it would have had no way to get food.

“There would not have been another outcome,” Jones said.

Hohm doesn’t buy that, and said that if he knew they were going to kill it, he wouldn’t have told them he found it. He said FWP “took the easy way out and swept it under the rug.”

Jones said the department doesn’t like that part of its job, but it is sometimes what they have to do.

“Nobody ever wants to have to deal with putting down a young animal,” Jones said.

She added that though people may want to help wildlife, doing so puts them at great risk for catching disease, especially if they pick them up or handle them.

“I feel for people who obviously have good intentions,” Jones said. “On the flip side of things, we also want to protect humans and animals when it comes to the spreading of disease.”

She said the mother moose had arterial worm, a parasite that also infects deer and elk but doesn’t harm humans.

Despite that, Jones said people who want to help animals need to “recognize that sick animals can translate disease to humans.”

Meanwhile, the campground is closed, and won’t reopen until at least June.

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Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.

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