Then the typical changed to the unusual: Family arrives to discover an oddity — dramatically elongated hooves. Family calls the authorities for an explanation.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist Elizabeth Jozwiak, the moose — an older cow carrying a 2-month-old fetus — had “abnormal hoof keratinization.”
Keratins are a family of fibrous structural proteins that form hard mineralized structures in mammals: hair, nails, horns, claws and hooves.
On the Kenai Peninsula, some moose are believed to suffer from abnormal keratinization either because of a copper deficiency in their diet or an inability to process copper efficiently. The most visually pronounced evidence of this abnormality occurs in the hooves.
Whereas a normal, healthy moose of the same age might have hooves 3 to 5 inches long, three of this cow’s hooves were about six inches longer than that, and the rear left hoof was 10 inches longer.
According to Jeff Selinger from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, local state biologists hear at least one report a year concerning such hoof abnormalities.
Despite the elongated hooves, which tend to be softer and more rubbery than normal hooves, he said, the afflicted moose seem to manage all right.
The deformity did not necessarily contribute to the moose’s collision with the vehicle.