Original Published on Nov 01, 2022 at 18:53

By Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

APSLEY — As Aspley community members mourn the loss of Stella the moose — a  beloved visitor who stole the hearts of residents young and old, earning the  moniker of the village’s “unofficial mascot” — some are thinking of ways to  commemorate the moose and the joy she brought villagers. 

Residents began spotting Stella in the area more than two months ago. 

The young cow moose could often be found venturing through yards, taking naps  in front of Apsley Central Public School — where students eagerly watched the  moose from their classroom windows — and grazing outside the North Kawartha  Township municipal office. 

Over a few short weeks, Stella became a famed fixture in the community. 

But the moose’s presence near Highway 28 proved problematic, and Stella was  put down by a Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and  Forestry conservation officer on Oct. 15. 

“A ministry conservation officer responded to a call regarding a cow moose  displaying abnormal behaviour on the shoulder of highway 28 near Apsley,” stated  ministry spokesperson Anita Tamrazi in an email. 

“Due to the behaviour of the animal and the proximity of the animal to the  road, a hazard and risk to public safety was apparent and the moose was  dispatched by the ministry. OPP mitigated traffic.”

Stella’s death quickly reverberated through Apsley. 

Residents were split over the decision to put the moose down, taking to  social media to share their thoughts. 

“(Stella) should have been moved somewhere else where she would not have much  contact with humans. She was a lovely animal who did not deserve to be put  down,” wrote Mario Paliska. 

“There are going to be some broken hearts … especially the kids at the  school,” another Facebook user stated. 

Lifelong Aspley resident Steven Kenzora shared an idea to a Aspley community  Facebook group: why not honour Stella through art? 

Kenzora, a well-known chainsaw carver who’s travelled the world showcasing  his artwork, suggested launching a crowdsourcing campaign to cover the costs for  a carving of Stella. He volunteered his expertise for the cause.

“(Stella) was something that really bonded those kids together and the people  around town the whole summer. I just figured we should carry that on,” Kenzora  told The Examiner. 

He said a carving of Stella could be placed along Highway 28 to welcome  people into Apsley, similar to other landmarks like the Buckhorn Buck. 

Levi Caya, another renowned chainsaw carver who operates the Aspley-based  business Out of My Mind, told The Examiner he would also donate his time for the  project if funds are raised. 

Kenzora said he made the suggestion on Facebook partly because Stella’s death  was creating a lot of division online. “I was trying to turn a sad thing into a  happy thing.” 

In a statement posted to her Facebook page, North Kawartha Township Mayor  Carolyn Amyotte said “Stella got sick and started to behave strangely.” 

In the ministry’s initial response to The Examiner, however, Dawn Sucee, the  ministry’s Bancroft District resource management co-ordinator, stated “MNRF is  not aware that the moose was suffering from any illness,” adding that while the  moose demonstrated an “unusual comfort in urban surroundings, all reports the  ministry received indicated that the moose otherwise behaved normally.”

In the same email, Sucee initially indicated that police had the animal down.  But in a follow-up response from Tamrazi, the ministry clarified that a ministry  officer had, in fact, put Stella down. Tamrazi noted the moose’s “abnormal  behaviour” but did not indicate the animal was ill. 

“Ministry staff work with police services to determine an appropriate plan of  action in situations where an animal is posing an immediate threat to personal  safety. Dispatch of wildlife is a last resort, but is sometimes needed to ensure  public safety,” Tamrazi said. 

This item reprinted with permission from   The Peterborough Examiner   Peterborough, Ontario

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