An Anchorage man who reported intentionally running his truck into a moose is being praised as a hero by his neighbors on social media.
They have good reason if the story told by Aaron Ramirez of Government Hill is true. Craigmedred.news has been unable to reach Ramirez, but this is what he reported on the website Nextdoor over the weekend:
“I was driving home from my mother’s house. As I got to the corner, a man and two dogs started running for the hills. (It) took me a second to see that moose chasing him. Without thinking about it, I chased after it with my truck; hit it once and pushed it into the woods away from harming this man.
“Be aware of your surroundings at all times especially early in the mornings; you never know what’s out there.”
The many comments on the post praised Rameriz for being alert enough to help out.
“Thank goodness you were there,” one woman remarked.
Iconic, charismatic megafauna, Anchorage’s usually placid moose can quickly turn dangerous if they feel threatened or are simply in a bad mood.
Injuries and deaths
Eighty-two-year-old Donna Rodgers ended up bruised and badly rattled after a moose attacked her while she was walking along a path at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on the city’s northern edge in early June of this year.
A skier in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a race through the wilderness north of Alaska’s largest city, thought his days might be over when not one – but two moose – tried to stomp him to death in March.
The brother of an Eagle River woman described her survival as a minor miracle in 2017. She – like the man on Government Hill – was out walking her dogs when a moose charged, knocked her to the ground and started dancing on her body.
She was lucky to survive. Several people have died after being attacked by moose in the Anchorage area.
Dogs can sometimes trigger attacks, especially in the spring when cow moose are highly protective of their calves. But the big animals regularly come after people without dogs, too, which is why the Alaska Department of Fish and Game advises people to always give the animals a wide berth.
It helps to know a bit about moose behavior, too. If the hair is standing up on a moose’s back, it’s uncomfortable and quite possibly about to turn aggressive. If the animal lays its ears back, lookout.
Fish and Game has produced a video for school kids on staying safe around moose. Adults will find most of it boring, but about six and half minutes in there is a description of moose behavior, video of an upset moose, and some advice on what to do if charged by one of the animals:
- Run away if you can before it gets close.
- Get behind a tree or car or whatever is available to prevent the animal from kicking you with its front feet.
- And in the worst case, if the moose knocks you down, curl into a ball, protect your head, and stay that way until the animal leaves.
Rodgers, the 82-year-old, escaped serious injury because she had the sense to get a sign between her and the moose and use it to shield herself from the moose’s lashing hooves as they danced around it.
A common issue
When Fish and Game put together its plan for “Living with Wildlife in Anchorage” in 1999, it reported it was then receiving approximately “1,000 calls per year about nuisance or aggressive moose in Anchorage. More than 100 people are charged each year by moose. Many of these are ‘bluff’ charges that do not result in any physical contact between the moose and person.
“However, all of these are potentially serious, and five to 10 are estimated to result in human injuries each year. Since 1993, two people have been killed by moose. In addition, it is estimated that as many as 50 to 100 dogs are injured by moose each year, including those along trails designated for sled-dog racing. On average, about 10 aggressive moose are killed by wildlife authorities each year.”
The numbers have only gone up since then as the city’s population has gone from 260,000 to about 286,000 with no significant decline in the number of moose.
State officials in ’99 estimated there were 200 to 300 moose resident in the Anchorage Bowl year-round and calculated that the population could swell to 700 to 1,000 in years when deep snows drove moose down out of the surrounding Chugach Mountains.
A pilot study that used reports from citizens and DNA analysis of skin samples from moose last year estimated a population of 350 of the 300-pound to 1,400-pound animals resident in the city in the early winter.
How many rural moose move into the city to join the urban moose each winter is highly dependent on mountain snowfalls. Last year was a relatively mild winter with moose regularly seen at 1,500 feet and higher in the mountains above the city.
But the moose aren’t just in the mountains. The animals can be encountered just about anywhere in Anchorage, including downtown, at any hours, and people have been injured just about everywhere.
One of the fatalities took place on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Another involved a woman stomped to death in her yard in a Turnagain neighborhood.
Hikers, runners, skiers, cyclists, tourists, birdwatchers, dog walkers and more have been among the injured, and people on foot or bicycles are not even those at the greatest danger of being killed or injured by a moose.
Collisions between motor vehicles and moose resulted in about one death per from 1977 to 2006, according to the Alaska Highway Safety Office, and the death rate would appear to have gone up slightly since then as traffic has increased on Alaska roads.
Many of the accidents are attributable to people driving too fast on slick roads, overdriving their headlights at night or in bad weather, or simply failing to pay attention to the road – the problem now described as “distracted driving.”
There appears to be no record of anyone intentionally running into a moose before the Ramirez report, but a fair number of Alaskans have reported putting their vehicles between people and moose or people and bears to protect the people.