Moose slayer

Jessie Holmes practicing his shooting skills/ Life Below Zero Twitter

Alaska reality TV star and Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher Jessie Holmes appears to have set some sort of record this winter by killing at least four moose in defense of life and property (DLP), according to state officials.

Widlife biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, both present and retired, say they can’t recall anyone DLPing, as wildlife self-defense shootings are termed in the 49th state, four big-game animals of any kind in one year.

“I don’t know that I even DLPed four in one winter,” said Ted Spraker, who years ago retired as Fish and Game’s wildlife manager for the moose-filled Kenai Peninsula where part of his job involved dispatching troublesome moose.

The 1,000-pound animals can get very cranky in winters with deep snow that make it difficult for them to get around to find food. In such conditions, they often become reluctant to leave snowmachine-packed trails mushers use to train their dogs.

Holmes, one of the stars of the reality TV show “Life Below Zero,” would appear to have been plagued with troublesome moose.

“The Alaska Wildlife Troopers are aware of four Defense of Life and Property incidents involving Jessie Holmes from this winter,” a spokesman for the agency emailed when queried about reports of Holmes shooting moose.

Spraker, who was appointed to the regulation-setting Alaska Board of Game after his retirement from Fish and Game and eventually became the Board chairman, said it’s easy enough to understand why someone might have to DLP a moose in Alaska in the winter to protect himself and or his dog team.

Especially around dogs, Spraker said, “moose can panic and go crazy.” But the wildlife biologist added that killing four moose does raise questions.

“I’d go find another spot to train dogs,” he said.

Missing paperwork

Details on Holmes’ moose shootings are nonexistent. Fish and Game officials said they could find no DLP reports filed by Holmes although state law says that a “person taking game under this (DLP) section shall notify the department of the taking immediately, and within 15 days after the taking shall submit to the department a completed questionnaire concerning the circumstances of the taking.”

They added that it is possible that an Alaska Wildlife Trooper could have talked to Holmes and filled out the standardized questionnaire required after these sorts of killings and that the form could still be in the hands of the Department of Public Safety. But the trooper spokesman referred questions on details about the moose shootings to Fish and Game, the agency responsible for cataloging DLP reports.

Holmes did not return several messages left on his cell phone asking him about the winter’s moose shootings.

Since placing a best-ever third in the Iditarod in March, the 39-year-old musher has had more than his share of public-relations problems. Not long after the race ended, he let some of his sled dogs loose in the parking lot of a Wasilla hotel only to have them run off and maul to death the small pet dog of a woman who lived nearby.

In early April, Wasilla officials said they expected to issue Holmes multiple citations in connection with that incident, which attracted global attention, but to date there is no indication those have been filed.

Other mushers have said Holmes was not the only one involved in DLP kills of moose this winter along the snow-covered, summer-only Denali Highway, but Fish and Game officials said they could find no reports of DLPs from that area.

It is generally well-known among outdoor-active Alaskans that DLP reports are required to be filed after any big-game animal is killed in self-defense, and the form on which such kills are to be reported to the state says very clearly at the top that it should be completed in 15-days and mailed to the Fish and Game office in Anchorage.

After Matt Failor, another Iditarod musher, was forced to kill a young moose with a knife as it tried to stomp his dog team on a trail near the community of Willow in February, he promptly filed such a report.

Failor, whose knife-weilding assult on the moose to protect his dogs can only be described as heroic, also made a point of salvaging the meat of the animal.

“Game taken in defense of life or property is the property of the state,” Alaska wildlife regulations say. “A person taking such game shall immediately salvage the meat or, in the case of a black bear, wolf, wolverine, or coyote, shall salvage the hide and shall immediately surrender the salvaged meat or hide to the department. In the case of a brown bear, the hide and skull must be immediately delivered to the department.”

Another story

Holmes moose kills came to the attention of after a resident living in the Cantwell area near the west end of the Denali mentioned that it appeared the musher had shot several moose over the course of the winter and instead of salvaging them as required by law left them for birds and predators to scavenge.

That individual in mid-April reported that “as of about three weeks ago, the partially-scavenged carcasses were quite visible from the groomed trail.  Initially, we assumed they were over-winter kill because of the record snow depths out there.  It has definitely been a hard year for moose along the Denali.”

But he then recounted a meeting with a wildlife trooper on a snowmachine along the highway “hauling out meat from another DLP, I asked him about the carcasses and he told us those were unsalvaged Jessie Holmes DLP kills.  It sounded like there may have been at least one other Jessie DLP that was properly salvaged and reported.   The trooper told us that Jessie claimed he didn’t know that he was required to salvage the meat which seemed pretty bogus given his rugged Alaska outdoorsman persona.  Interestingly, the trooper told us he hadn’t heard of Life Below Zero until Jessie pointed out that he was a member of the cast.”

Troopers, however, eventually concluded that Holmes acted legally.

“None of the DLPs are considered suspicious,” the spokesman emailed, “and there is no active Alaska Wildlife Trooper inquiry into these incidents.”

Holmes was at the time of the shootings training dog teams out of a camp he maintains near Brushkana Creek along the Denali. The summer-only highway gets buried beneath snow in winter is a popular training ground for many long-distance, sled-dog racers.

“There was some initial confusion regarding the DLP process between our public safety dispatchers and Mr. Holmes,;’ troopers said in their statement, “however that has since been resolved.”

Holmes bills himself on his Facebook page as a “subsistence resident of the Tanana River (country), but appears to support himself mainly by acting in the National Geographic Network TV series.

The U.S. version of the Sun, Britain’s largest newspaper, has reported he earns $4,500 per episode on the TV show and is “estimated to be worth nearly $500,000.”

Subsistence residents of Alaska are generally people living off the land in rural areas of Alaska. Few are worth a half-million dollars.

Without the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend, the annual payment to all Alaskans as their share of earnings on investments from taxes collected on oil, the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research has estimated about one in every five rural residents would be living in poverty.

The annual PFD lowers the number to about 12 in every 100, though the PFD is usually less than half of what Holmes is reported to earn for an episode of Life Below Zero.  The Alaska Legislature appears this year ready to boost the payment to $2,550 by adding a $1,300 “energy credit” onto a $1,250 PFD.

Given the high costs of living in rural Alaska and the many people barely scraping by, it is understandable why some in the Cantwell area might be upset about Holmes shooting moose and failing to salvage the meat, which when salvaged is donated to low income Alaskans per state policy.

Power of celebrity

If the story is true that Holmes pointed out to a trooper that he was a member of the cast of Life Below Zero, he might have had a reason.

NatGeo, which airs the show, has a long history with troopers. For five years, the network was  home to the “Alaska State Troopers” reality show.

Troopers put the show on what they called a “hiatus” in 2014 in the wake of the shooting deaths of troopers Scott Johnson and Gabe Rich in the remote, central Alaska village of Tanana.

At the time,  then Trooper Col. James Cockrell e-mailed his staff to say the agency “needed to step back, take a break from filming and re-evaluate the consequences of our agency.”

A deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, which oversees troopers, expanded on that by telling  the New York Daily News that the decision to stop filming had been made in consultation with the “show’s producers (and) the agency left the meeting saying they’d be interested in bringing the series back if the interest was still there, but not for a while,” the newspaper reported.

“Alaska State Troopers,” the TV show has continued to air in reruns on cable TV since its hiatus. And troopers have in the past described the show as one of their best recruiting tools.

Some troopers were fans of the show; others thought it interfered with the job they were supposed to do.

Reality TV became a big deal in Alaska in the 2010s. There were reported to be “more than 20” shows filming in the state in 2015. But since then, the number appears to have shrunk to about a dozen now.

Still, the Alaska shows remain popular.

Life Below Zero appears to be among Nat Geo’s top rated shows, but it is no match for the Dicovery Channel’s “Gold Rush,” which attracted `1.9 million viewers in January, according a listing compiled by Ratings Ryan. Below Zero’s best show in the same week was clicked on by slightly less than half as many viewers.

Whether Life Below Zero captured any of Holmes’ DLPs on video is unknown. Other mushers training along the Denali last winter said there were unusual numbers of moose concentrated along the snowmachine down the road because of unusually deep snows.

“This was an incredibly challenging winter for wildlife across Alaska due to a variety of weather factors which resulted in an unusually high number of DLPs across the state,” troopers said.


24 replies »

  1. Jesse Holmes has made camping at Brushkana campground impossible. His dogs are nonstop barking all night interspersed with frightening dog fight noises. At this point, with his out of control dog yard, his dogs at large killing other dogs and his suspicious killing of 4 moose in one winter leads me to believe Jesse Holmes is a scumbag.

  2. i always questioned a permenant residence aka building get put out there. regardless of whether it holmes or someone else, musher or other person…… 70 dogs year around definitly effect wild life distribution and hunting and wilderness feel for other people who go out there to hunt , recreate, etc… regardless of DLP situation. it was kinda nice it was an unregulated mostly, un developed mostly. place. even jeff’s blm tent thing, which he welcomed other mushers to train to and use. was a temporary dwelling. one thing missing from ur report what did he shoot them with, how many rounds fired. years ago i was there at a dlp with a bear and the hide skull and report was promptly immediately filed sent in. has anyone ever got cited for doing a dlp paperwork wrong/ late etc? with a busted collarbone he might just have been too weak to handle the job? dog handlers film crew could a done it if htey were around? as long as no one is trapping or predator hunting off of those carcasses left out i dont see it being a crisis. i been charged by moose and narrowly escaped etc and its probably better to shoot them than not. cc thebad story about that woman getting her team attacked this last winter. remember when coke wallace went and shot his old horse and left it as bait to trap or hunt wolves along northern park boundary and felt like it was wrong because introducing domesticated animal meat into ecosystem to bait the wolves with. they might get a taste for that lol. where are the wolves to keep moose numbers in that area in check or are they cleaned out…sorta like holmes might get a taste for shooting under slight provokation. alabama (i had a gun pulled on me there for no reason one time) aint the same as other states anyone could go visit there and they would see it for themselves. id rather have some reality tv person from alabama shoot 4 moose than the entire denali highway become like an over regulated national park next door, but im not sure i would like to see it become like two rivers either. and im not sure i like the idea of a reality tv person building out there to begin with. training out there is one thing. a permeant cabin and dog yard is another. …wonder if someone randomely bikejored or skijored by bruskana there if they would have to worry about contacting holmes (or any musher with a big permeant kennel there) 1st due to loose dogs. what if they shot his dog when it ran at them? all energy recreates itself in the cosmos in some shape or form …

    also at some point maybe mushers should be prepared to use non lethal deterents 1st to get moose off the road/ trail encouraged to have a flare gun, or bean bag gun, shell crackers (adfg use these somex) flash bang grenade. acknowledging that they are working with teams of dogs that look to a moose like packs of wolves, and acknowledging that they share the trail and ecosystem with moose. if the moose is actually not charging in close quarters, this might work. someone might argue that it would it could of course provoke, make a moose charge. but i dont see any evidence to prove that. or that a musher wouldnt have time to set the bean bag gun flare gun down and reach for a real firearm in a moose encounter… maybe gun manufacturers got to make a new make and model weapon. over under or something, with a flash / flare round or bean bag round , and also a lethal round in different barrel on the same fire arm. specifically for mushers to use with regard to moose encounters. call it the “holmes special or holmes 2022”. Noting here specifically holmes isnt from Alaska, neither is the nat geo money that supports him. hes really not that different than the neighboring national park there. with a lot of non alaskan employees and fueled by non alaskan economy dollars. and in that way very much like that dead horse that coke wallace baited the wolves with. not from the ecosystem. doesnt belong there. like the infrastructure of the national park and their rules and regulations, and the infrastructure of the reality tv films. and their subsequent impacts on the wilderness around them. at a point if its not exploitive to a place, in a development sense. it teeters on that line certainly. thus perhaps their should be an impetus if not responsibility etc to innovate an create a solution like new firearm i suggest.

  3. Musher kills moose, moose kill sleddogs, sleddogs kill Fluffy. I just know there’s an awful lot of killing going on in Life Below Zero….used to be “sex sells”. 4 moose could feed a whole yard. Hey, wait a minute…

  4. It’s definitely a complicated situation as mr holmes lived out on trail and his options were limited regarding avoiding the situation. Before hes strung up in public square he should have his say . Where is proof he didn’t salvage? According to kens statement it was an extreme situation with moose even causing ugly situation with machines. . Its not like the guy could just leave his kennel of dogs and go elsewhere. Apparently its his home base . I doubt he was happy with situation. I think i trust the troopers to understand the variables if they didn’t file charges. Must’ve been a logical reason. Would be interesting to hear holmes story. Regarding 4 moose ? Who knows- could’ve been on same trip. We really just don’t know variables. I have heard of people being helicoptered out of that area because the moose were so aggressive and efficient, its not anchorage.. you csn bet the guy wasn’t doing it for sport . Haveing to shoot 4 angry moose in middle winter would just be a pain in butt . Imo . 4 ? Well some people get hit with lightning alot and some people never do . It’s weird. Odds are the guy would’ve avoided if possible and troopers not hassling him supports that .
    How many troopers would turn a blind eye if they could get a public figure? Nearly none unless they were related. Even then idk

    • Dread, I wholly agree with your first two observations. The situation is complicated and Holmes should have his say.

      But it’s pretty hard to have your say when you’re not talking. He has my phone number. He has not called.

      Personally, I’d settle for reading the explanations he put in his legally required DLP reports, or even whatever account he wants to offer some Iditarod fanboy or fangirl reporter. Unfortunately, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says the DLP reports don’t exist, and the fan-orters in the Alaska mainstream appear to want to keep these moose shootings on the downlow even more than they wanted to keep that little incident with Holmes’ dog team in Wasilla on the downlow until they couldn’t.

      (Can you imagine the coverage if it was discovered a Republican legislator from Wasilla had set a record by DLPing four moose in one winter?)

      The rest of your comments generally compromise speculation that could be right or could be wrong. Holmes could be a guy traumatized by having to shoot four moose; Holmes could be a guy who believes shooting four moose to keep them away from his training is no different than you or I killing four rats or mice that had invaded our house; and he could be a guy somewhere between.

      Meanwhile, you are wrong about DLPing four moose in winter being a pain in the ass. That is only true if you salvage them as required by state law and fill out the state paperwork. If you just shoot them and leave them, it’s about as much of a pain in the ass as shooting road signs along the Denali, and some people, from the looks of things, would actually appear to think that is fun.

      I did find your observation on lightning interesting. Some people do get hit more than once. I don’t know what constitutes “a lot,” but the record is seven times:

      Of course, it took the guy seven years.

      If Holmes only killed a moose every eight or nine years (35/4 = 8.75), it wouldn’t be a story. But that isn’t what happened. He killed four in one winter.

      There are no indications anyone has ever been hit by lightning four times in one summer. And given that the odds of being hit by lightning twice in a lifetime are calculated at 1 in 9 million (,chance%20than%20winning%20the%20Powerball.), I can’t even harbor a guess at how cursed one would have to be to get high by lightning “a lot” in one summer.

      • I think you are right on everything you said and pretty much agree, yet its polite to give him some benefit of doubt and someone has to be devils advocate 😉

  5. One I could see, 4, no. About like the snowmachiner Outside whose video went viral a few years ago shooting a moose on a groomed snowmachine trail. Change the time of running the dog team, location, etc. Moose and deep snow, they don’t like deep snow. They don’t see dog, they see wolf, and regard canines as an enemy. F&G cut the guy too much slack.

  6. I watch this show and have followed Jesse for years. It is really astonishing that he would leave meat out like that and waste it. Has anyone asked him why, or if the filming for the show interferes with something like harvesting the meat to turn over to the state that he should normally do? This really goes against his whole persona. I am glad he gets a good salary for the show, however, because sled dog racing is really expensive. Still any Alaskan who has been there for any length of time should know the procedure.

    • I don’t need to ask him why. I already know. He’s out there with a dull pocketknife at best, 700 lbs of meat-on-bone after a few hours of hard work, a rickety little sled to try to put it on, a bunch of yapping dogs that need to be tied to a solid object, and it’s below zero. After the first few times he drops these moose, he’s also developed an attitude sorta’ like the one I’ve developed reading about his sorry life. He thinks he should be able to seek his fame and fortune without those pesky moose interfering, and I think I should be able to get some of that meat he’s wasting instead of paying $10+ per pound for politically inflated red meat.
      He needs a Life Behind Bars, not a Life Below Zero.

  7. If I didn’t file a report and salvage a DLP kill, the Troopers would fine me for sure. Is this guy special because he’s a TV star?

  8. Wanton waste is a crime. If he had to kill, butcher, and deliver the meat from his first, second, or third dlp he wouldn’t have put himself in a position to have to kill, butcher, and deliver the meat again so soon. That’s a lot of work.

    • Andy Couch the Commercial Fisherman that takes way to many spawning Salmon out of the Rivers

      • And Couch was polite enough to apologize for hijacking the thread when answering a question put to him by Rod Perry. Now you can apologize for hijacking the thread.

        Save your views on whether a potential spawning salmon killed in a river by an angler or the client of a fishing guide is deader or less able to spawn than the same salmon killed in Cook Inlet by a commercial fisherman for a fishing story. This story is about DLPs.

    • It would be interesting to poll Alaskans on when they think officialdom should take a serious look at what is happening in these cases – on the second DLP, the third, the fifth, the 10th or more?

      • During my years pioneering and anchoring ADF&G’s Wildlife Information Center, part of my job had me dealing with DLPs. While four DLPs by one person in quick succession raises questions, the law does not have a cutoff or limit, as long as life or property is being truly threatened with no other way out. A healthy balance at looking at this is being skeptical yet open minded to possibility.

        Last year a yearling moose crossed a very wide, clear space to kill one of my dogs, seemingly with intent. In prior instances of moose close by, that particular dog would just stand dumbly watching, silent and non-threatening, On a 75-foot running line and a long dropper chain, plus two houses to dive into, the dog had plenty of getaway possibilities. Evidenced by the way the snow was torn up around the stomped dog, it looked like she just stood in place and let it happen. There was no sound of the altercation to alert me in the house.

        When I found the dog dead awhile later, the moose was browsing around the other side of our property. Of course I didn’t kill her; a dead dog can hardly qualify as property to be guarded the threat was some time past. As I told my shocked wife, it was at the end of a long, hungry winter, and the moose was just being a moose. If I had seen the altercation in time, however, there would have been a prostrate moose, meat to deal with, and a DLP report to file.

  9. Snow conditions were difficult on moose in many locations. In the Matanuska – Susitna Valley (Game Management Units 14 & 16). I believe we have lost a significant portion of the moose population for the past 3 years. Moose concentrate in areas where it may be easier for them to get around or access food — this would obviously include packed trails through the snow. Which of course raises the question how does one safely train dogs or ride snowmobiles in such an area without impacting moose? We have the same conditions along our highways and the Alaska railroad during the winter — and moose collision mortalities often rise with the height and duration of snow depth.

    Not meaning to single out any specific Alaska reality show — but just a general observation — it appears to me that some of the “REALITY” is often contrived — and producers go out of their way to film dangerous or crazy situations to boost the viewership and ratings. A “happenstance” moose encounter with a dog team (even if it did not end so well for the moose — dogs– or musher) might reward a reality show very well.

    • well one thing that can be done, and has on occasion been done, is put in more snowmachine trails to make it easier for moose to disperse. i don’t if the railroad did that this year not, but they have sometimes in years pasat.

      and unlike with the railroad and the highway, snowmachine use, especially in the Mat-Su valley, raises an interesting question as to whether it makes things worse for moose with harassment and the occasional DLP or better given the fact all the trails make it a lot easier for moose to move around in search of food.

      the same question applies to roads both there and in Anchorage. moose that might have traditionally been limited to small areas because of extreme snows have access to a lot more country when there are roads and trails.

      and yes, a happenstance moose encounter with a dog team could make for great pictures, the dope to which reality TV is addicted.

  10. “Troopers, however, eventually concluded that Holmes acted legally.”

    “None of the DLPs are considered suspicious,” the spokesman emailed, “and there is no active Alaska Wildlife Trooper inquiry into these incidents.”

    Okay, but what about the “salvaging of meat” law?????

  11. The final race of the year was cancelled by the owners of alpine lodge and main sponsors of the race because they reportedly spotted over 100 moose on their drive out to Cantwell and had several ugly encounters with them along the way just prior to the race’s start date.

Leave a Reply