By Joseph Robertia
As summer gives way to fall and the golden leaves begin to flutter down from the trees, male moose grow impressive palmed and pointed antlers which they use to spar with other males in an effort to determine who will lay claim to the cow moose of their particular area. However, the spiked racks of a few bulls on the Kenai Peninsula have recently ensnared them in more than a battle to breed.
“It’s not that unusual for a male moose to get tangled up in things, but we’ve had a few calls this year,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.
The first call came a few weeks ago as motorists and residents in the Kasilof area began seeing a medium-sized bull moose with what appeared to be a plastic swing set wrapped around its antlers.
“It was generating a lot of calls,” Selinger said. “We’re not sure how it got on there, if it was sparring with a swing set or if it just walked through and got snarled up, but we went out and looked for it a few times, and about a week later Larry (Lewis, a wildlife technician with Fish and Game) was able to catch up to it off of Pollard Loop.”
Lewis sedated the animal and was able to remove the swing, the seat of which was dangling like a chandelier under the tangle wrapped around the antler itself. The seat may have been interfering with the bull’s field of vision, which could have caused problems for the animal when looking out for predators or possibly even when crossing the road.
“If it’s not inhibiting their movement, vision, ability to eat or their health, then we’ll typically leave them alone, because whatever’s tangled on there will just drop off when the antlers drop, but this one was affecting its ability to see and the swing was banging off his head,” Selinger said.
While Fish and Game managers weighed the decision whether to intervene with that bull, there was no doubt if they would need to step in for another moose so thoroughly tangled in a homemade swing set last week in Soldotna that the animal was practically immobilized.
“It wasn’t going anywhere,” Lewis said.
The beam of the antler of the moose had tangled with the rope portion of the swing, which ran down to a fisherman’s buoy,
where a child would sit to swing.
“It was so twisted around and around, it couldn’t even lie down,” Lewis said.
The animal was so worn out from the tussle with the children’s plaything that Lewis didn’t need to sedate it in order to use a handsaw to cut the tangled antler off the animal and set it free.
Children’s toys aren’t the only items that can catch moose at this time of year. Other garden items also can pose a hazard, as evident by an area ungulate sporting a fluorescent green bundle on its rack.
“We’ve also had a few calls about a moose that’s been seen behind the weigh station in Sterling. It sounds like it’s dragging around about 50 feet of garden hose with it,” Lewis said.
Unlike the swings, the hose — while a bit unsightly — doesn’t seem to be slowing the animal down from its typical seasonal activities.
“It’s still following around a herd of cows,” he said.
Lewis said that Fish and Game would continue to monitor the situation, though.
Selinger said they also are currently looking into reports of another bull that has been seen off of East Redoubt Avenue in Soldotna with a bundle of bright orange construction fencing wrapped around its antlers.
“We’ve only heard about that one once,” Selinger said. “But if it shows up again, we’ll go take a look and make sure it’s OK.”