By Joseph Robertia
Moose are best viewed from a distance but they don’t always observe that rule, sometimes showing up on roads, in parking lots and around homes. But even if they’re the ones getting too close for human comfort, people are still the ones held responsible for managing those interactions.
“A moose that is attacking you — or your family, or your dog — you can defend yourself and kill that moose, but you have to be willing to defend your actions for a DLP (defense of life or property kill),” said Larry Lewis, wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “But, a moose just being in the yard isn’t a justifiable reason to kill it.”
Jimmy Dean Rice, of Soldotna, found this out the hard way after being charged by Alaska Wildlife Troopers for a Class A Misdemeanor for illegally taking a moose during a closed season, after he allegedly shot at a moose with a pellet gun this summer.
With a court case pending, Dean Rice declined to comment on the situation. According to a report filed with the Kenai District Court, at about 11:30 p.m. July 16, Rice used a Beeman Model R9 pellet gun — a .177-caliber firearm that shoots at approximately 1,700 feet per second — to shoot a moose that was acting “weird.”
According to court documents, Rice said he planned to shoot the moose in its “ass” to just scare it away, but after shooting the moose it ran a few yards, fell down and died. Large amounts of blood were reported coming from the moose’s nostril and mouth.
Trooper investigation found the dead moose to be approximately 20 yards from Rice’s residence in the tree line, and according to Rice’s own statement the moose did not pose a threat to life or property at the time of the shooting. Troopers noted that Rice’s yard was well manicured with flowers and bushes, which might have drawn in the animal.
Rice stated to troopers that a number of things could have happened to the moose prior to him shooting at it, but added that, while he had “no intention of killing the moose,” he was likely the “culprit,” and added that killing a moose with one shot from a pellet gun qualified him as either the luckiest or unluckiest person in the world.
Lewis said that this is not the first time he has heard of someone killing a moose with a firearm they thought would only haze the animal.
“I remember taking a pellet out of a moose a few years ago that had bled out on a driveway off of Poppy Lane after it had been hit in the femoral artery,” Lewis said. “People need to understand, anything that comes out of the barrel of a firearm has lethal potential.”
Rather than use pellet guns, BB guns or birdshot from a shotgun (which can leave festering wounds) to move moose off their property, Lewis advises homeowners use less potentially lethal means, starting with simple methods that can become more pointed if the moose is resistant.
“People can begin with just their presence — sometimes just clapping your hands and shouting at the moose is enough of a negative stimulus to get them to move. If that doesn’t work, banging on pots and pans can be effective, or using air horns or car horns,” he said.
Lewis said that while these methods will work for most moose, there are some “urban” moose that have become so desensitized to vehicles and the loud noises they make that it could take more to get these moose to push on.
In that case, rubber-ball or bean-bag rounds fired from a shotgun might be necessary, but Lewis stresses that this should be done with the careful aim of scaring the animal away, not trying to harm or kill it. That means understanding the effective distance from which to fire these kinds of ammunitions.
“As with bears, it’s better to be proactive, rather than letting it get to that point. If you have a garden or trees or plants, dogs or other things you don’t want the moose near, it’s better to have a fence up or some means for keeping the moose away, rather than reacting to them once they’re already there and causing a problem,” he said.
Rather than resorting to potentially lethal hazing methods, Lewis added that people with moose problems or other wildlife issues can call Fish and Game to ask for assistance, as well.
“It’s what we’re here for,” he said.