He’s trying to dismiss it as just another part of rural policing, but even Cpl. Rob Gardner of the Hudson’s Hope RCMP in Northern B.C. admits it was an unusual night when his cruiser collided with a moose.
Gardner was on a routine one-hour patrol along rural Highway 29, just six kilometres out of Hudson’s Hope on Jan. 31, when he struck the large animal.
"It was a dark wintery night, snowing, and I just came up on two moose that were just entering the roadway from my left and unfortunately I had nowhere to go at all and they had nowhere to go," Gardner said.
"I had enough time to say a few choice words with what was about to happen and prepare myself for it," he said.
His RCMP cruiser, a Tahoe SUV, struck one of the moose on the fender, causing it to land on his windshield and shatter the glass. Shards of the windshield sprayed throughout the vehicle’s interior and caused minor cuts to his hands.
"I’ve never been in a vehicle where the windshield shattered like that," said Gardner. "I’m still picking glass out of my duty belt a few days later."
"I managed to catch the moose on the corner of the vehicle instead of right head-on and with the weight of the moose it’s pretty devastating to a vehicle, especially with all that weight landing squarely on the windshield," he said. "So I got super lucky."
He stopped his vehicle about 100 metres after the impact and says it took him a few minutes to get out of the vehicle because his door was jammed shut. Gardner says his first instinct was to go back along the road to make sure the animal wasn’t laying on the highway because it was dark and he didn’t want another vehicle striking it in the darkness.
"By the time I got back to where the collision occurred, I could see where the moose had slid off the road into the ditch – but it had gotten up and walked away," he said.
"I didn’t see any blood and there’s no blood on my police vehicle or in the fresh white snow. There’s no reason to think it’s critically injured but it definitely is missing some fur, there’s quite a bit of fur in my headlamp and on my door," he said.
Gardner is currently the detachment commander in Hudson’s Hope. Previously, he was posted in Stewart, B.C. Before that, he was a community policing officer in the Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, detachment. He says this is the first time he’s run into an incident like this in his 12 years in the RCMP.
But, he says that his previous career as a commercial truck driver for another dozen years brought him closer to similar incident across the many kilometres he travelled back in those days.
He says while we can often see deer along Vancouver Island roadways, the situation with moose is much different.
"The hard thing about a moose is they’re very dark and people don’t realize but their eyes don’t glow," said Gardner. "You drive down the road and you see the deer and their eyes glow. Well, for some reason, the moose’s eyes don’t have that reflection to them so they’re very hard to see."
In this instance, he says he did eventually see the animal’s eyes when he got right up to it.
"We did make eye contact, definitely, he was looking into the windshield as I was looking out," he said.
Gardner says animal strikes do happen on occasion in the semi-isolated community of 1,000 people, which is 90 kilometres from Fort St. John in northeast B.C.
"We have a lot of deer that get struck but a lot of people don’t even report it to us. We live up in the north and there’s a lot of wildlife up here, we deal with bears and deer and moose and elk and stuff like that," he said.
Gardner says it serves as a good reminder that drivers in the area need to always be prepared.
"This can happen pretty much to anyone anywhere. Our temperatures at nighttime are dropping to -20 C so you have to be prepared," he said. "If you’re out there by yourself and you’re farther away from town and you run into this situation, make sure you have a jacket and gloves and a blanket just to keep warm. Or, if you come across somebody and you need to help them out, sometimes it takes a little time for ambulance or fire or us to get there."