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Reports of aggressive moose attacks on the rise around Interior

Carla Dekle/Facebook
A 2-year-old female moose lies slumped against Carla Dekle's car Monday after her roommate shot it and a bull when they charged at them and attacked their dog.

Wildlife experts advise residents to avoid moose that wander into populated areas to find food, refuge

The winter storms that pounded the Interior last month have made life difficult for both people and wildlife, especially moose. The deep snow and hard icy crust makes it difficult for moose to forage, so they’re coming out of the woods and into human-populated areas to find food and refuge. And some have become aggressive and attacked people.

That's what happened to Carla Dekle.

Dekle lives off Clearwater Road, about 10 miles east of Delta Junction. She says moose have been coming into her yard and munching on willows every winter since she moved into her home near Delta Junction back in the 1990s.

“We have several cows that always come back every winter that are pregnant, and sometimes they’ve got babies with them,” she said in an interview Monday.

But Dekle says she had to deal with a much different kind of moose encounter on Monday, when an aggressive bull and cow showed up in the yard.

“They were just very, very aggressive,” she said. “I have never seen this before, and I’ve lived here over 26 years.”

Dekle says the female charged her roommate when he went out to get some firewood. And she says when she stepped out on to the porch a few minutes later, the moose lunged at her, too.

“She was probably 30 feet away from me at the time she charged,” she said, “and she was here in it seemed like three big steps.”

Carla Dekle/Facebook
Dekle's roommate also shot a bull that was attacking her sled dog that was tied up out in the year.

Dekle says the bull then ran over and attacked a sled dog they’d tied up out in the yard.

“I’m screaming and yelling for my roommate to grab a gun, because I was not going to let him trample a dog.”

Dekle says the female was right next to the porch when she flung the front door open so her roommate could get a good shot with his .41-caliber magnum pistol. “And my roommate just started firing, because we didn’t have no choice. She was going to come through that door.”

She says the female staggered and dropped, and the roommate then reloaded and killed the bull. Dekle says the Trooper who came out to the house told her that moose were becoming very aggressive – because they’re starving.

“They are eating everything they can get a hold of,” she said.

A state Fish and Game Department wildlife biologist says that’s because they can’t get to their usual food sources, because they’re buried under snow and ice.

“We have deep snow, and that crust from the rain that’s in the middle makes it even more difficult,” said Hollis, who works in the Fish and Game office in Fairbanks.

“The moose are having a hard time getting around,” he said, “and it’s just real stressful on them and making them ornery.”

Hollis said Monday he’s been getting a lot of reports about run-ins with aggressive moose from all around the Interior.

“This morning, we had 17 voicemails on the machine from the weekend, and 10 of them were moose issues,” he said.

An Alaska State Troopers spokesperson said Saturday the agency had gotten several reports of aggressive moose encounters, two of which involved injuries. One of the victims is a 67-year-old Delta-area resident who sustained broken bones and was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Troopers also have been getting reports of more moose on area roads – and vehicles colliding with moose.

Hollis says that people should avoid moose that wander onto their property and wait until they leave.

“You’ve got to give them space and you’ve got to be patient with them,” he said. “If you try to push them, they’re going to get ornery and charge.”

He says the same advice applies to encountering a moose on the trail.

“Turn around and go the other way,” he said. “They’re going to stand their ground. They’re not going to want to get off that trail.”

Hollis says area residents should exercise more caution than usual around moose, because they’re likely to be stressed and aggressive for the immediate future.

“People out and about just need to realize that this winter, from here on out, you could deal with an ornery moose that doesn’t want to get off the trail,” he said. “And the more stressed they are, the tougher shape they’re in, the more ornery they’re going to be.”

The state Fish and Game Department issued a news release (PDF) today outlining those and other recommendations

Hollis says residents can call their local Fish and Game office for advice. But because the agency is short-staffed, so it will take a while before an agent can respond in person. In emergencies, call 911.

Dekle says she shared the story of her ordeal in a Facebook post, to help people understand the importance of being caution around moose.

“Children, pets, elderly – everybody,” she said. “You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings and be careful around moose. Or somebody’s going to get hurt or killed.”

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.