Category Archives: moose

Data-driven collisions — Fish and Game seeing changing trends in wildlife-vehicle accidents

File photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose draws a crowd as it prepares to cross the road.

File photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose draws a crowd as it prepares to cross the road.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Tourists and Alaskans alike often enjoy seeing moose, but never so up close that one of the 1,200-pound animals is crashing through their windshield. Yet that inevitably happens every year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“To be exact, we had 154 moose that were hit, killed and reported on the Kenai Peninsula from July 1, 2014, to June 10, 2015,” said Larry Lewis, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Game.

Those numbers are actually trending downward when compared against the averages for the past 28 years, Lewis said, which is how long records of moose-vehicle collisions have been kept by Fish and Game, compiled from their own reports as well as from Alaska State Troopers, Kenai and Soldotna police and the Alaska Railroad, since moose stepping onto railroad tracks are occasionally hit by trains.

“When you look at the data from 1985 to ’86 up to 2013, the mean number of moose hit comes out to about 248 animals, and 154 is obviously well below that,” Lewis said.

While the number of moose killed has started to come down in recent years, Lewis said that the number of moose that run off into the woods after being hit is trending upward.

“I’m not sure if it’s lighter vehicles now versus the old tankers, or if it has something to do with how people are driving, but last regulatory year we had reports of 79 hit and not recovered. We only started keeping track of this since 2000, but just since that time the average is 73,” he said.

As high as both these numbers are — 233 combined — Lewis said that the numbers still don’t paint a clear picture of how many moose are actually hit on the peninsula.

“These are just the ones we know about. By law, collisions with moose are supposed to be reported, but every year some are found dead on the roadside,” he said.

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Moose malaise is only skin deep

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose afflicted with infectious cutaneous fibromas has been seen in Kasilof lately. The “warts” are caused by a virus and are generally harmless.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose afflicted with infectious cutaneous fibromas has been seen in Kasilof lately. The “warts” are caused by a virus and are generally harmless.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Moose never look regal in the spring. They’re scrawny and lean from the long winter without fresh forage and scruffy while shedding their ragged-looking cold-weather coat. But one young cow lingering in Kasilof lately has an even more unappealing presence.

“They’re called infectious cutaneous fibromas,” said John Crouse, a wildlife biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in regard to the dry, hairless, apple-sized tumors dangling from the moose’s body.

Actually a virus, fibromas affect nearly all species of the deer family and have been documented in white- and black-tailed deer, mule deer, fallow deer, red deer, roe deer, Sika deer and caribou, in addition to moose.

“The ‘warts’ can be anywhere from golf ball sized up to volleyball sized, and they can have just one or be covered in them,” Crouse said. They may also grow in individual tumors or in large clumps of them.

As a virus, fibromas are spread from moose to moose via direct contact with an infected animal, contact with an object that a moose with a burst wart has rubbed on, or by insect bites.

“It’s not too big a deal for them or their long-term health. Usually it’s the younger animals under 2 years old that get them, and it will clear up after a few months,” Crouse said, although on rare occasions some tumors can develop in sensitive areas, such as around the eyes and nose or in the armspits, and affect the animal’s sight, breathing or movement.

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Moose get season date updates — Board of Game addresses Kenai hunting regulations

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The Alaska Board of Game updated regulations for moose hunting at its meeting in Anchorage last week.

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The Alaska Board of Game updated regulations for moose hunting at its meeting in Anchorage last week.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

As Alaska Board of Game members heard last week, it’s good news, bad news regarding the moose population on the Kenai Peninsula. The board met March 13 through 18 in Anchorage to consider Southcentral proposals, including several measures related to moose hunting on the Kenai Peninsula.

The board got to peninsula moose measures March 17, starting with a presentation by Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The peninsula is divided into Game Management Units 7, on the eastern peninsula, and 15A on the northwestern peninsula, 15B in the central western peninsula, and 15C in the southwestern peninsula. While moose aren’t going great guns in any of those units — and, therefore, neither is moose hunting — some areas are doing better than others.

“We believe 15A is still in decline. Fifteen B is kind of a wait and see due to the large fire that occurred there, and 15C we believe we’re stable and maybe, possibly increasing slightly. And in Unit 7 we think we are still having declining moose populations,” Selinger said.

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Safe from bears? Don’t fall for it — Delayed onset of winter weather leaves nature stuck in autumn

Redoubt Reporter file photos By mid-November, most bears are in their dens for winter. This year, however, a late onset of winter has extended bear activity, as well.

Redoubt Reporter file photos
By mid-November, most bears are in their dens for winter. This year, however, a late onset of winter has extended bear activity, as well.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

By the calendar, it’s winter in Alaska. Usually by the end of November, the Kenai Peninsula has gotten at least one coating of a couple inches of snow and marked temperatures dipping into the teens or single digits. But this year, winter as usual has yet to arrive. With temperatures in the 30s and just a scant dusting of snow, it feels more like October than nearly December, and wildlife aren’t falling for it supposedly being winter.

Bears, in particular, are still in fall activity mode.

“We had reports last week of bears getting in to garbage or Dumpsters,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna, on Monday.

A brown bear was reported getting into Dumpsters and breaking into a garage seeking garbage stored inside in a neighborhood about five miles out Funny River Road, Selinger said.

The Kenai Peninsula Bears page on Facebook has a few reports of bear sightings, as well, including a black bear checking out a neighbor’s chickens on St. Theresa Road in Sterling, posted Nov. 19. Another black bear was seen heading into Woodland Estates in Kenai, posted Nov. 19, and a walker reported seeing fresh bear tracks near Hidden Creek on Nov. 4.

Selinger said that his office gets reports of bears out and about every month of the year on the Kenai, so there’s no guaranteed safe period when all bears are tucked away for the winter, but most by now are denned up for the winter.

“Generally speaking, the majority of your animals, by about mid-November, most should be in the den. Some animals go in a little earlier than others, but usually by now they’re all pretty much denned up,” he said.

“Daylight, snow cover, how much fat they have on them — there’s a lot of factors that can play into it. Usually they want to wait until the ground freezes a little bit and makes it better for digging dens, they don’t cave in as easily. It’s a lot of factors all rolled into one. Generally speaking, the warmer it is the more likely they are to stay out longer,” Selinger said.

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Not far from spar — Kasilof man gets living-room seat to moose show

Photo courtesy of Leon Mensch. Two bull moose spar in a yard in Kasilof on Sunday, with blood-stained antlers from having their velvet recently sloughed off.

Photo courtesy of Leon Mensch. Two bull moose spar in a yard in Kasilof on Sunday, with blood-stained antlers from having their velvet recently sloughed off.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Living in Alaska, residents get fairly used to living a little closer to nature than their Lower-48 counterparts. With that comes seeing more wildlife. But even with that expectation, Leon Mensch, of Kasilof, woke up to a spectacle Sunday morning that still made his jaw drop.

“Not too many places you can have a morning like that,” he said.

A moose in his yard doesn’t garner much attention. A bull with a nice-sized rack warrants more than just a glance. Two bulls with racks is downright noteworthy, and those bulls smashing their racks into each other calls for undivided, mouth-hanging-open attention.

The spectacle started slowly. Mensch, a dog musher, had just gone inside after feeding his huskies. Having a yard full of dogs is usually a good alarm of anything unusual, like an animal wandering through. But Mensch said that his dogs must not have seen the moose arrive that day, because they were quiet.

“When I came back in I looked out the window and first saw just one. I went to grab my camera and when I got back to the window both of them were there, sparring in what will (next year) be our garden,” he said.

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Moose record shot down — No bull: 75 5/8-inch rack topples Soldotna man’s record after 20 years

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Heinz Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, is one happy hunter these days, what with the bull moose he shot Sept. 22, 2013, along the Yukon River near Stewart Island having recently been certified as the new Boone and Crockett world record.

That’s a feeling few hunters can claim, but it’s one with which John Crouse, of Soldotna, is familiar. His moose, taken in 1994 in the Fortymile River area, was the previous world record-holder, finally dislodged about 20 years later by Naef’s behemoth bull.

Naef was hunting by himself, more interested in winter meat than a trophy, according to the Boone and Crockett Club. He removed the antlers from the skull with a chainsaw, nicking them in the process, but they remained intact to measure 75 5/8 inches at the widest point — about the width of a king-sized bed. The left side had 17 points and a palm measuring 17 5/8 inches wide by 51 inches long, which is longer than the average shoulder height of a black bear. The right antler had 19 points and a palm measuring 23 6/8 inches wide by 50 7/8 inches long. The record was certified by a special judges panel convened at the Boone and Crockett Club Wild Sheep Foundation convention Jan. 24 in Reno, Nev. With a final score of 263 5/8 points, the bull has the largest antlers ever recorded for the Alaska-Yukon moose subspecies.

By just the antler spread, Crouse’s moose wouldn’t seem to measure up, at 65 1/8 inches wide. When he first spotted the bull, and even after shooting and butchering it, it didn’t occur to Crouse that he might have a record on his hands.

Crouse, a wildlife biologist, was living and working in Cordova at the time. This bull was by far not the widest antler spread he’d seen.

“The guy I was working for had an 84-inch Copper River rack hanging on the wall in our office,” Crouse said. “And so I walked up to (this moose) very happy thinking, ‘This is a nice, big moose,’ but I was not thinking record book at all because it’s mid-60s. My impression of records at the time was big, wide racks and I wasn’t familiar with the scoring system.”

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Haze beware — Pellet gunshot thought to cause moose death

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

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.”

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