By Naomi Klouda
A moose was shot Thursday after being severely injured after being run down by a pack of dogs on Ternview Place, in Homer, resulting in citations for the dogs’ owner and an investigation.
At about 7:30 p.m. March 23, Homer Police received a call reporting the moose had been shot to put it out of its misery after the dogs attacked it. The dogs, owned by Joseph Patten, were reported to Homer Animal Control for their aggressive behavior, said Police Chief Mark Robl. Patten was issued three citations, one for each dog.
It is not automatically OK for a resident to shoot a moose, either in defense of life and property or as a mercy killing, Robl said. The matter has been referred to the Alaska State Troopers for investigation.
It was one of four moose shot in Homer in recent months.
“One of the three dogs had severely injured the moose,” Robl said. “The neighbor and gentleman with the dogs decided they needed to put it out of its misery, so the neighbor shot the moose. The dogs had been reported as aggressive in the past. A report was made to the animal control officer, who issued three citations for having dogs at large.”
Defense of life and property laws allow wild animals to be killed if it is clearly established that a threat posed probable harm.
“A DLP kill is something you need to articulate, whether it’s a bear or a moose. You have to clearly believe your life is in danger. The evidence at the scene has to back up what the person says, then you can have legal defense for killing an animal,” Robl said. “These people made a judgment call and I don’t know what they based it on. It should be obvious.”
The Homer Police Department has shot three moose this winter after determining the animals posed a threat to public safety. There is no formal agreement with the local Department of Fish and Game biologists, but police try to consult with them prior to a decision on how to handle a given moose situation, Robl said.
“We like to talk to them before we take action against an animal, but they seldom come out to the scene,” Robl said. “They usually tell us to use our best judgment.”
Police have had their hands full with moose matters all winter. Record snowfall of more than 16 feet on the Homer bluff has chased moose to the lower elevations in town. Calls come from observers expressing concern for the moose they see committing odd behavior, stuck in an enclosure or limping with injury. Most recently, on March 23, a caller on Pioneer reported “a moose eating bark off trees.”
That behavior spells doom for the trees and is not the healthiest fare for moose, since bark is not very filling and “girdling” a tree will likely kill it. But that’s another sign of the moose’s desperate plight until spring progresses and opens more food resources.
“I’ve seen them dig through Dumpsters, and there’s nothing healthy in there for them,” Robl said.
Homer Police report most calls throughout the winter that did not rise to the level of needing to put the moose down.
“A lot of moose are in town right now,” Robl said. “They are stressed from deep snow and are having difficulty finding food. Some of the calls are from people getting chased to the door because a moose is in the yard, or they are getting chased to their car. We’re hearing from people when they have a real problem and they can’t deal with it by themselves.”
The Homer Police log contains incident reports for each day of the week, and more often lately each day contains at least one moose call. In December and January, there were four calls about moose injured and killed in snowy road accidents in the Homer area. Each time a moose is killed, its meat is donated to whomever is next on the road kill harvest list kept by the police department.
“We go down the list making calls, and whoever shows up to butcher it, gets it,” Robl said.
The same holds true for moose the police shoot.
Just as the Church on the Rock was finishing up Sunday, March 11, a moose exhibited aggressive behavior that resulted in several calls to police. After other actions were taken to divert the moose, police shot it at about 5:30 p.m. that evening.
About five natural deaths are also among the reports. Carlene Speight, who lives off Fitz Creek Valley Road, noticed a lot of eagles, hawks and other birds attracted to something nearby. A consistent group of birds seemed interested in something in the area.
“One day my husband was driving by and he noticed a part of a moose’s rib cage was there. It had died in the deep snow — it looked like there’s some wooden structure the moose got stuck in,” Speight said. “Once it died birds started scavenging it. We’ve seen a lot of moose on our road, walking up and down the road. Sometimes we drive up and they wouldn’t move.”
Only once did she feel concerned a more aggressive interaction might ensue, she said.
In other incidents: On March 9, a man reported a dead moose calf at a Bunnell Avenue address. Police notified an Alaska Wildlife Trooper and the moose was salvaged by a charity.
On March 10, a woman reported an injured moose in her Saltwater Drive yard.
On March 25, a yearling moose was shot by the Alaska State Troopers on Highland Drive.