Social media being social media, a cow moose that once sported antlers and is likely long dead had Alaska hunters fretting on Monday.
Cow moose rarely grow antlers, but it is not unheard of. And a cow with antlers could, maybe, might possibly become a serious issue in the 49th state where most hunts are limited to bulls sporting antlers small to massive depending on their ages and physical condition.
A cow moose with spindly, spike or fork antlers could easily be mistake by most hunters for a yearling bull, legal game in much of the state. But technically, in areas where hunts are “bull only,” shooting a cow with antlers would be illegal.
This has actually happened more than once. A hunter near Kake in the Panhandle shot a moose with spike antlers in 2009 thinking it was a legal bull only to discover after the kill that the animal was a cow. The hunter reported the shooting to Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials in the nearby community of Petersburg, and was given a warning ticket and told to go home, according to news reports at the time.
He was allowed to keep the meat of the moose. In cases in which state officials decide someone did something serously wrong, the meat is seized and donated to charity.
There is a youtube video of another cow with antlers reportedly shot in 2010 in Alaska. The video claims that moose, too, was reported to Fish and Game which kept the head but nothing else. No record could be found indicating any Alaska hunter has ever been hauled into court for shooting a bull-looking, antler-carrying moose that later turned out to be a cow.
But on social media, facts are not always allowed to get in the way.
Shoot, don’t shoot
Some hunters posting on Facebook were dead certain, as one wrote at the 907 Hunting and Fishing News page, that “Alaska State Troopers enforce the letter of the law, and antlered cow does not meet it as written.”
Others followed by lambasting “the government…..which specific name it is (bull or cow), I don’t care….This is a bullshit law.”
The conversation largely deteriorated from there into bad jokes about transgender moose and attacks on government regulators: “This sort of bullshit rules just proves it’s about the money with Fish and Game, so they can piss more of it away.”
The impetus for all of this angst?
A 14-year-old story from the state’s Alaska Fish & Wildlife News, an online magazine, posted as if new. Fish and Game was in the fall of 2004 pleading with hunters in the Nome area of Northwest Alaska to be alert to a cow with antlers accompanied by a calf.
“If this cow is mistakenly shot as a bull, there is little chance that the calf, which is quite small, would survive,” biologist Kate Persons was quoted saying at the time.
Judging by the size of that antlered cow-moose, she would have been at least two years old in 2004 and likely older. That would make her at least 16 now.
“Moose rarely live more than 16 years,” according to Fish and Game’s Wildlife Notebook Series. There have been no reports of antlered cow moose on the Seward Peninsula near Nome in years.
That pretty much makes a Facebook post that came from Delta Junction – nearly 600 miles east of Nome, about the distance from Chicago to Philadelphia – warning hunters not to shoot an antlered moose that might be a cow – none of which are known to exist in the Delta area at this time – pretty close to something called “fake news,” which can make for real arguments.