(CNN) — A Montana camper saved a newborn moose, only to have it blown up by park authorities, together with its dead relatives.
Josh Hohm was camping at Gallatin National Forrest late last month when he spotted the orphaned calf.
The calf’s mother had died after giving birth to twins, according to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. One of the twins lay dead alongside its mother.
Hohm found the calf that survived, took a few photos with it, and sought help.
“The camper called the sheriff and they called us, and our warden went up to euthanize the animal,” Montana FWP said.
Since the calf never suckled on its mother to get the necessary nutrients, authorities said, it would not have survived even if they rehabilitated it.
Wildlife officials said it was not an issue of cruelty. It was an issue of policy.
“We have a policy to not rehabilitate moose, deer and elk because of disease,” the FWP said. “We rehabilitate bears but we are not staffed to take care of animals that transmit disease.”
The moose was euthanized, then blown up, together with the carcasses of its mother and sibling. They were in a public campground and risked spreading diseases, authorities said.
“We are not Grim Reapers; we are in this business because we care about animals,” the FWP said.
Reached by CNN, Hohm explained how he found the calf, its stillborn sibling and their dead mother in a remote area about 40 miles outside Livingston, Montana. He said he spent about seven hours with the “alert, active and healthy” calf, with it even lying down with his dogs, before authorities arrived.
A warden told him he’d have to find another campsite because it wouldn’t be safe to be too close to the moose carcasses, given they might attract bears.
Hohm said he found out from a friend the next day how the calf had died, then was told it was because “the calf would not have survived and they had to do it because of the risk of disease.”
“I would have never called them if I knew,” he said.
CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this report.