11/05/2014 05:46 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST

Friendly moose put down by wildlife officer in Tweedside, N.B.

A young moose that has been posing for pictures in the rural community of Tweedside, N.B., in recent weeks and even allowing people to pet her has been put down by a wildlife officer who believed she was sick.

The friendly yearling, which had become a bit of a local celebrity, was discovered lying in the middle of a road, unhurt, late Tuesday night.

Area resident Beatrice Messer, who had gotten used to seeing the moose in her yard, believes the animal she calls "the big softy" was just trying to keep warm on the pavement.

"The moose was coherent and alert. It was just laying on the road," she said.

But the animal's behaviour raised red flags for Department of Natural Resources officials.

Wildlife biologist Dwayne Sabine says the moose most likely suffered from a neurological parasite known as brain worm.

It also posed a hazard to drivers, he said.

"Putting an animal down is not the first thing we do. It's a last resort and when public safety becomes paramount," said Sabine. "If the animal can be moved away, that's what we do."

Messer, who just took photos of the moose yesterday when she and her husband went to get the mail, is disappointed.

"It was a privileged feeling. It was something I never experienced before," she said.

"I'm very respectful of wild animals … but it was a total different experience."

Messer's neighbour, Carl Vail, who recently posed with the moose for a photo, which was published in the local newspaper, is crushed.

"Unfortunately, maybe what I did led to some of this. I hope not. But it's a shame that they had to kill an animal," Vail said.

He says he'll never forget his encounter with the moose.

"Oh, it was fantastic," he said. "I don't think we could have got a better high than that experience."

Although Vail knows the moose is gone, he says he still finds himself scanning his yard for her.

He and others say they feel like they've lost a member of the community.