A Palmer teen suffered minor injuries when she was trampled by a moose Wednesday morning, according to Alaska State Troopers. Biologists say moose are under greater stress than usual, amid an especially cold and snowy Southcentral Alaska winter.
The girl’s trampling, near Plumley Road in Palmer, was reported to troopers by her mother just before 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to an online dispatch. Troopers said the mother drove the girl to an area hospital. A responding Alaska Wildlife Trooper found the moose in the area and said it was still acting aggressively. The trooper shot and killed the animal.
Troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain said in an email Friday that the moose appeared to be about 18 months old, and was showing signs of malnourishment. Although other moose were also in the area at the time, they were not involved in the attack.
“The teenager was walking to get picked up for school,” DeSpain said. “It was dark outside and the moose approached her. It was unprovoked.”
The teen was both kicked and stomped during the attack, according to DeSpain, but was able to escape soon afterward. Troopers first reached the scene about 20 minutes later, but couldn’t find the moose during their initial search.
“(A trooper) responded back to the area at daylight and discovered the moose in the immediate area of the attack,” DeSpain said. “Soon after the trooper exited the vehicle, the moose approached the trooper with its hackles raised, lowered its head, ears back and directly approached the trooper.”
After the moose was killed, DeSpain said, residents in the area told troopers that local moose had been “displaying aggressive behavior” by chasing dogs, and approaching people as well as entrances to nearby homes.
“That experience is common around Southcentral this time of year due to the scarcity of food and this year’s deeper snow,” DeSpain said.
Cory Stantorf, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s newly appointed Anchorage area biologist, said Friday that local calls about aggressive moose this winter began to spike in mid-January.
“Reports of ornery moose have increased quite a bit in terms of moose not wanting to get out of backyards, people letting their pets out without taking a quick peek and a moose coming back and trying to stomp their pet,” Stantorf said.
According to Stantorf, heavy snowfall, like the foot-deep dump last month that has prompted a wave of roof collapses across the city, can also limit moose’s movements – forcing them to travel on roads and face additional stress when they encounter people or cars.
“That’s really what drives them out of the mountains, out of the foothills and into our urban city center here, where they can find paths (where) they don’t have to burn all the extra calories trudging through the deep snow,” he said.
Fish and Game has received several Anchorage reports of moose making contact with people, but so far no serious injuries have been reported.
“There’s always the risk of inflicting a lot of damage but so far, it’s only been minor, minor bruises,” he said.
Biologists haven’t had a significant increase in calls to kill injured moose this season, Stantorf said, despite the uptick in reports of aggressive behavior.
The most important thing Southcentral residents can do to avoid violent moose encounters, Stantorf said, is give the ungulates a wide berth. That also means not feeding them, for which troopers cited an Anchorage coffee-stand owner in December.
“You know, they look hungry,” he said. “Don’t give into the temptation to feed them, because that could not only injure the moose, but probably injure someone else down the road that doesn’t have a handout for that animal.”
Anyone who encounters aggressive or distressed wild animals can report them to 911 if they pose a threat to personal safety, contact the nearest Fish and Game office or file a report online.
“In this deep winter, the best relationship with moose is a long-distance one,” Stantorf said.