Poor Chanel, the canine best friend of Beth Rogers, is dead. Rogers is heart-broken. And what happened in Willow last week is a reminder for all Alaskans of the deadly dangers of the big animals with which the region is shared.
“Moose are not normally aggressive; however, they can be very aggressive, especially in winter when they are hungry and tired of walking in deep snow,” the Alaska Department of Fish and Game warns.
Rogers and Chanel ran into one such moose just feet from their home as the Willow postmaster was heading to work last week.
“The dog came out like normal,” Rogers said Friday. “We were three feet from our house.”
The moose was in the yard with a nearly grown calf. The duo turned and started off into deep snow. And then the mother wheeled and came back, Rogers said.
Rogers took shelter in her car. Twelve-year-old Chanel – who Rogers described as a small, “Lassie-like dog” – went for the house. The moose went for Chanel.
What happened next is not something Rogers likes to remember.
“There’s not a whole lot we could do,” Rogers said “I honked the horn.”
Her husband, who came out of the house armed, fired off a gun to try to scare the moose. It didn’t scare. Once the adrenaline gets flowing, the animals usually don’t.
“The moose went onto the deck,” Rogers said. “(My husband) took a hoof to the foot.”
Chanel “actually survived the fist attack,” Rogers said. A second, however, proved fatal. Dogs and people have good odds of surviving a moose stomping if they are in soft snow, but on hard ground or a plowed driveway the rock hard hoofs of moose can prove deadly.
A 71-year-old man was stomped to death outside the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1995. He made the mistake of trying to fend the moose off instead of covering up and playing dead. The video, as troubling as it is informative, can still be found on YouTube. Viewer discretion is advised.
“She was such a good girl,” Rogers said of Chanel. “She had great respect for the moose, too. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I feel bad. I feel bad for the moose this time of year, too. I do think that the message needs to get out. I hope everybody is just careful.”
Moose are only likely to get crankier from here on out. They are tired from a season that is even in the best of times a period of starvation for the up-to-1,500 pounds animals.
Even in the best of winters, notes “Ecology and Management of the North American Moose,” moose are in a slow, but steady state of starvation with their body fat reserves constantly falling.
The cows will only be starting to return to better health in mid- to late-May when they start birthing their calves, which often make them aggressively protective. A woman in Eagle river, an Anchorage suburb, was seriously injured last year when attacked by a moose with calves.
Fish and Game warns people to be alert, especially if it’s dark out.
“Frequently unsuspecting dogs are let out in their backyards when lighting is poor resulting in a surprised moose as well as a surprised dog,” the agency says. “Turn outside lights on or scan your yard before blindly releasing your four-legged friend into the dark.”
There are more tips here: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livewith.aggressivemoose
- Don’t feed the moose, the agency says; it can make them more aggressive, and it is illegal.
- Know how to recognize an irritated moose. Its hackles go up. Its ears go down. And it may start licking its lips.
- If a moose does charge you, get behind something – a tree, a vehicle, a fence, a building. Moose will use their front feet as if they are kick boxers, but they can be out maneuvered.
- “As a last resort, a large squirt of pepper spray will often move them, or at least provide you with some protection if they charge.”
All the popular bear repellants are pepper-spray based. They can be used to get a moose off your dog as well as to protect you from bears.