Officials with the Flathead National Forest in Montana say a snowboarder been fined for harassing wildlife after a video of him chasing a moose was posted on Facebook.
Flathead National Forest spokesman Wade Muehlhof told the Missoulian newspaper that 21-year-old Charlie Rush was fined $225 for violating a federal regulation that prohibits molesting wildlife during the Dec. 19 downhill excursion.
"It’s one of the tools, especially with the video going viral, that law enforcement has to reinforce the educational message that people should not engage wildlife,” Muehlhof told the newspaper. “They should have kept their distance.”
The 52-second video, which was filmed and posted to Facebook by Rush's snowboarding companion, was forwarded to Flathead National Forest authorities by personnel at Whitefish Mountain Resort, according to the report.
The video shows Rush heading down the ski resort trail with the moose galloping in front of him. The Facebook video posting has been "liked" nearly 900 times, shared almost 400 times and drawn the attention of national media outlets.
Rush, who is reportedly considering contesting the citation, told CNN reporter Jeanne Moos that he loves moose and would never intentionally hurt an animal. "I never realized how big they were till I got that close to one," he said in a recent interview.
Muehlhof said the snowboarder is lucky that a citation is all that came from the experience.
"If moose feel threatened and go to protect themselves - a person can be seriously injured by them. At the end of the video, you notice that the moose stops and turns. That could have had a very bad outcome for the snowboarder," Muehlhof told MTN News.
"We're very happy that neither the moose nor the snowboarder were injured. It's very important to get the message out that if you encounter wildlife, please don't engage with the wildlife. Be patient; usually they'll move out of the way, or find a different way around," he added.