07/15/2015 05:15 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia moose poaching investigation targets hospital records

Nova Scotia conservation officers have seized records from a hospital in the Annapolis Valley after at least one person may have fallen sick by eating tranquillized meat from a moose poached last fall near Mount Uniacke.

This latest development comes as the probe into the illegal shooting has stretched on for more than eight months. The Department of Natural Resources ìs tight-lipped about the case, saying only that it is under "active investigation" and no charges have yet been laid. 

But court documents obtained by CBC News reveal officials have been trying to piece together the identity of the poacher by uncovering who fell ill after eating the animal.

Last October, conservation officers were alerted to moose remains found about 60 metres off Highway 101. Moose are considered an endangered species on mainland Nova Scotia and it's been against the law to hunt one since 1981.

Soon after the Department of Natural Resources made public the discovery, it was alerted by a Halifax doctor that someone had fallen ill after eating tainted moose meat. Since March, an investigator with the department has obtained a series of search warrants to try and track down hospital records to identify the patient.

A warrant filed in court last month reveals investigators have now pinpointed the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville as the medical facility where at least one patient was seen.

The report says three records were obtained from the hospital, but does not detail what they are or how many patients are involved. The Department of Natural Resources refused to answer questions Tuesday about the information gathered.

The moose had been tranquillized at the end of September in the St. Croix area of Hants County and shifted to a less-populated spot in the Pockwock watershed outside of Halifax.

Less than a month after it was moved, the animal was shot dead. The poacher left a gut pile, moose legs and hide, and the head tied to a tree.

The moose's left ear had also been cut off and gone was the tag used to identify the animal after it was tranquillized, according to court documents.

Health Canada warns tranquillized animals are not safe to eat until one year after the drug is administered.

Four days after the discovery, the medical director of the IWK Regional Poison Centre called the Natural Resources dispatch centre. 

According to court documents, Dr. Nancy Murphy said she needed immediate information on what chemicals had been used to subdue the animal, and what risk they posed, as someone had fallen sick after eating moose meat.

She refused to reveal any details of the case because of patient privacy.

Following three search warrants for records at the IWK and discussions with the hospital's lawyer, the Department Natural Resources finally learned the moose meat illness had been dealt with by a doctor at the regional hospital in Kentville.

The conservation officer in charge of the investigation, Troy Bonar, then obtained a warrant for records at Valley Regional that would "establish the identity, date of birth and currant (sic) residential address" of patients "reporting symptoms of sickness due to eating tranquillized meat (moose meat) ..."