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News | June 21, 2016

Living with wildlife: Moose edition

By Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez JBER Public Affairs

The late May birthing of a moose calf in a parking lot outside the Muldoon gate of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson came as no surprise to some Alaska residents.

Living in such close proximity to moose – which can be temperamental creatures – means people must be aware of what to do in a chance encounter, said Mark Sledge, 673d Civil Engineer Squadron senior conservation law enforcement officer.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, more people are injured by moose than bears. About 175,000 to 200,000 moose are scattered throughout the state.

“Moose are more dangerous than bears in the sense that they are so quick tempered,” Sledge said.

Education is key for living with wildlife and conservation agents of the 673d CES provide tips for living with moose.

“They’re stressed on a lot of different levels,” Sledge said. “The newborn can’t keep up with mama, and there are a lot of predators out there, looking to eat those little guys.”

People tend to underestimate moose, Sledge said. They get too close – maybe trying to take a picture with their phone – and violate the animal’s personal space. Moose attacks tend to be a response to the invasion of space.

“These animals are not from a petting zoo,” he said. “They’re not going to let you get up close so you can get a picture. The little babies are not cute and cuddly. They’re wild animals and you have to treat them as such.”

Each moose is different, Sledge said. You have to pay attention to the visual cues to know if you are getting too close.

“They’re not predators; they’re just trying to neutralize the perceived threat,” said James Wendland, 673d CES chief conservation law enforcement officer.

Should you cross paths with a moose:
-Do not approach the moose.
-Pay attention to the moose’s body language. A moose with its ears up is aware of your presence but is not necessarily threatened.
-A moose with its ears back, the hair on its neck up, or licking its lips and salivating is feeling stressed or threatened. If you encounter this, back away slowly while maintaining eye contact.

“Even if you think you’re far enough, don’t turn your back on them,” Wendland said.

If a moose charges:
-Hide behind something sturdy like a tree.
-Run if possible.

“If that attack happens – hit the ground, roll up into a ball, cover your head and wait,” Sledge said. “The moose will hit you a couple times. As soon as you’ve been properly chastised and the moose leaves, seek medical attention.”

Feeding moose is illegal – you will be fined if caught.

Should you decide to break the law and give a moose a treat, the animal is likely to pay a return visit, Sledge said. You might continue to feed the creature thinking it a harmless act, however, when you move and are nowhere to be found, the burden of a panhandling moose will fall on the new occupants of your humble abode.

To report nuisance wildlife, call the conservation law enforcement officers at 552-2436.

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