Of moose and men


Photo illustration courtesy USFWS

If a moose dies in the center of Alaska’s urban heartland….

Well, suffice to say, it’s not the same as if one of the big ungulates wanders into the Yukon River village of Ruby to offer itself up as dinner.

No, depending on how a real-life Bullwinkle happens to perish in the city, it’s death can be meaningless and unreported, or it can be news. None of the 120 or so moose to be killed by motor vehicles every year make the news (unless a human is so unfortunate to die in the accident as well), but it’s a different story if one of the big animals is shot.

Maybe it has something to do with the long-ago personification of “Seymour of Anchorage” and his wild Anchorage friends.  Seymour, Visit Anchorage explains, is the “moose mascot and city ambassador.”

Shooting one of the city’s four-legged ambassadors is sure to cause more of a ruckus than the alarming rise in the shootings of people in the nation’s 134th largest metropolitan area.

Cue the headline:

“A third moose shot and killed in Anchorage

“Two boys found a bull moose shot dead in East Anchorage on Friday near a church, making it the third shooting of a moose in the city in less than a week,” the Alaska Dispatch News reported only to later retract the story without admitting to a retraction.

Killed near a church

The correction without a correction led to some media commentary here, which also got some of the details of the events leading up to the moose’s mercy killing wrong.

On Monday, to set the record straight, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game put out a detailed report on how the moose came to end up dead. The animal was shot by an Alaska Wildlife Trooper as reported, but there were two shots.

The moose was not hit by a car as was believed by the charity that butchered the carcass after it was donated as food for the needy. But the animal was put down  by authorities because it was suffering from a debilitating injury.

With that said, here is the complete timeline on what happened as compiled by Ken Marsh, Fish and Game’s public information officer:

“An Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist and Alaska Wildlife Trooper responded Friday afternoon at about 3:30 to a report of an injured moose between East 36th (Street) and Pioneer Drive in the Muldoon. The moose was observed and the biologist spotted badly infected wounds low on one of the animal’s hind legs around the hoof. The biologist determined that the wounds were impeding the moose’s movements and that the infection had progressed to a point where the animal probably would not survive.

“Using a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with slugs, the wildlife trooper shot the animal behind the front shoulder. The trooper followed that shot with another to the animal’s head to ensure it was dead.

“After the moose was dead, the Alaska Moose Federation was contacted to pick up the carcass for transport to a charity. In the meantime, close examination of the moose’s wounds suggested it had been bitten – perhaps by a wolf or large domestic dog. There was no indication the animal had been struck by an automobile.

“After this (examination), an incision was made by the biologist along the animal’s front shoulder to collect a DNA sample to be used in an unrelated study of Anchorage area moose. Two young boys who later found the moose were reported (by the Dispatch News) to have said the moose was still breathing when they encountered it; they were obviously mistaken. It’s possible that steam escaping from the warm, dead animal into the cold winter air made it appear the moose was breathing.

“We do not know why the AMF took longer than expected to pick up the moose. Normally pick-up is prompt.”

The quick summary

“These are the facts,” Marsh wrote:

  • Moose injuries were on lower leg
  • Injuries were badly infected and appeared consistent with being bitten
  • There was no indication the animal had been struck by an automobile
  • Moose appeared unlikely to survive wounds
  • Animal was put down with a state-issued 12-gauge shotgun
  • Two slugs were fired – one in shoulder/chest area; a second to the head
  • AMF was contacted for pickup
  • An incision was made in front shoulder by ADFG to collect DNA for research.”

The moose, sadly but in some ways luckily, died the way many moose die in Anchorage. After suffering an injury, a bullet spared it from a long, slow death, which is the way a lot of moose die all over Alaska every winter.

And no one ever notices. It’s the city life versus the wild life.






1 reply »

  1. “they were obviously mistaken”
    “normally pick up is prompt”
    Has anyone asked the boys why they thought it was breathing?
    There’s a story in the steam rising from a dead moose…

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