Commentary

Asking for trouble

 

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Hidden danger, a cow moose on June 1/Craig Medred photo

Commentary

Does any of this sound familiar?

“A moose on the rampage attacked two women walking with their dogs, injuring both severely. (The people, not the dogs. Grammar is in trouble in America.)

“‘We were just moseying along, hiking, enjoying our hike, and then all of a sudden, I looked up and he was looking right at me,”said Jacquie Boron, 50, who was hiking with her neighbor Ellen Marie Divis, 57….

“Boron said the moose grunted and immediately charged toward her, hitting her squarely in the chest and knocking her off her feet.

“The moose repeatedly returned to stomp on her, leaving her with four broken ribs, 15 stitches in her leg and 10 staples in her head.”

The possible cause of the mayhem?

“State wildlife experts said it’s possible the dogs triggered the moose’s aggressive behavior.

“‘They do not like having dogs anywhere near them, so very often they will try and stomp the dog or will actually follow the dog,’ said Jennifer Churchill, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman.”

Obviously, as reported in USA Today in late May 2014, Colorado officials are more forthright than the Alaska Department of Fish and Game about the dangers dogs pose around moose during the calving season.  The state wildlife agency has been strangely silent in the wake of two Anchorage women with a loose dog being seriously injured by a cow moose at Kincaid Park last week.

Still, it should be noted that area wildlife biologist Dave Battle did warn this sort of thing could happen.

“Moose calving generally peaks around the third week of May, and young can be encountered well into June. Cow moose can be particularly dangerous during calving season and attacks on people and pets by mothers aggressively defending calves are reported each spring,” he told Alaska Native News only a couple weeks before the Kincaid attack.

“’The best policy with moose right now is to give them plenty of space,’ said Battle. ‘Try to avoid single tracks and narrow, brushy trails where limited visibility might lead to a run-in with a cow moose and calf.’”

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The same cow moose as above seconds later/Craig Medred photo

The Kincaid attack, which involved a cow moose, came in an area of narrow, brushy trails with limited visibility and a loose dog in the mix. It is unknown whether the cow did or did not have a calf. Most adult cows in Kincaid start the year with calves. Some do lose them to predators (yes, there are bears in this park), and can remain in an agitated state for some time after.

None of this is meant to beat up on dog owners. I am a dog owner. But the reality is that if you let your dog run loose this time of year in Anchorage, you are seriously upping your chances of being stomped by a moose.

Moose stompings happen more than you think, too. Former Fish and Game area biologist Jesse Coltrane a few years ago estimated there were five to 10 a year in Anchorage. She might well have been low. There have been at least three already this year just in Kincaid.

“My good friend was attacked and stomped the day before this (latest) incident in Kincaid Park,” Kincaid area resident Janelle Matz reported. “There was no news report as she was able to leave on her own and did not require hospitalization.”

This is the norm. A lot of what happens in Kincaid doesn’t get reported. Luke Simpson nearly died in a mountain-bike accident there in the fall of 2014, and news of what had happened didn’t become public until friends started trying to raise money for his medical care.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how many people might get attacked by moose in the park in a given year. And it’s the same for city-wide tracking. One of my neighbors chased her dog – yes, there’s the dog thing again – into the woods outside of her house, got stomped by a moose and ended up in the hospital with serious injuries without a word of it making the news.

She is more careful when she lets the dog out now. Me, too.

I live on the Anchorage Hillside in house on a lot that was partially left in a natural state. The walkway down to the workshop is surrounded by alders. The family West Highland terrier, a dog with more attitude than judgement, ran down the walkway the other day, went around the corner of the woodpile and immediately began yapping his head off.

This was followed by the sound of heavy feet thumping over hard ground. I beat a retreat. Moose or bear, Hobbs was on his own.

As it turned out, he had stumbled into a cow with a calf, and she was not happy.  Luckily, she did not see me. I would have been a bigger and more obvious target on which she to take out maternal angst.

Hobbs almost got me stomped once before (I barely manged to escape into the workshop), and he did manage to get stomped a 13-year-old Labrador, who wanted nothing to do with moose. Bailey knew to stay well away from them. Then, Hobbs brought one to her. Fortunately, she was not seriously hurt.

Bailey is now in her grave, and Hobbs – for obvious reasons – is seldom let out of sight. Lars, the new Labrador, has been trained to stay in sight on trails and not to go anywhere near moose. He doesn’t. He will actually stop ahead on the trail and hold if he senses a moose nearby, which is the way it should be with dogs but usually isn’t.

Just before Matz’s friend was stomped, Matz noted, “she was passed by a couple with two loose shepherds. Of course the (likely) harassed and defensive moose are going to go after the next (bike) rider. All dogs, including all your ‘well-behaved, special’ ones should be prohibited in Kincaid during calving season.”

One wouldn’t think government intervention necessary here. One would think that dog owners would have the sense to keep their pets on a leash or obviously within sight and under voice control. But anyone who has spent much time in Kincaid will have noticed that isn’t always the case.

This has led to restrictions on dogs elsewhere.

“Moose mommas (or cow moose) are likely to have their calves alongside them during this time of year. If you come between a cow and it’s calf, you are in trouble,” one federal agency notes. “Regarding your dog, moose are used to canines, such as coyotes and wolves, attacking their young. Consequently, it will perceive your harmless dog as a threat. In Glacier National Park, you do not need to worry about this as dogs are not allowed on hiking trails.”

That is obviously one way to solve the problem. We can only hope that dog owners exercise enough judgment in popular hiking areas that it doesn’t become necessary in Anchorage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

near their homes in Black Hawk, Colo., about 35 miles northwest of Denver.

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1 reply »

  1. The day after the attack I rode the Coastal Trail to the chalet and saw a lot of dogs running off-leash. It’s not fair to the moose, already under seige from the large number of bears in the park. But try and tell that to a dog owner. As a group they are arrogant and dismissive of any reminder that they are breaking the law.

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