Alces alces

Today, like every other day, reminded me why we love this place so much.  Friendships, jobs, the beautiful surroundings, if it's not one thing, it's another.  Today it was the wildlife.

On my way to and from Wasilla (Yes, that's home to Sarah Palin.  No, I did not see her.  And no, you can't see Russia from Wasilla) for a great horned owl outreach program, with my bestie Peabody, I counted a total of 19 different moose! 19! I still get excited when I see just one, so you can imagine how floored I was to see 19!  

Before the move to AK, I had never seen a moose [in the wild].  Until you see one up close, in its natural surroundings, you don't fully understand how big and beautiful, albeit kind of gangly and awkward, they are! I remember our very first moose sighting like it was yesterday.  It was about 2 weeks after we moved up here. We were driving to our friends' house and I was so excited that all I could scream was "STOP!!". After nearly giving Steve a heart attack and telling him to pull a quick u turn, we laid eyes on our first moose (and a bull at that). He was just standing on someone's front lawn, right around the corner from our apartment, munching on their poor trees. He didn't have a care in the world except for eating those leaves.  Of course we were still tourists at that time so we stopped to take pictures. He couldn't have cared less about us pulled right up next to him, oooing and awing and snapping away.



Obviously I'm not going to list every single sighting we've had, especially since seeing moose walk down the street like they own it is a regular occurrence here.  But, I do need to share my second sighting...  I was sitting at home on the couch one day, being a bum because I didn't have a job yet, and one of my girlfriends called me to tell me there was a moose eating the trees in her office parking lot.  She obviously knew how excited, and anxious, I was to see my next moose. Her office was right down the street and I think I made it there in record time.  I was sitting in the car, a good distance away, taking pictures (still being a tourist) when she called me to tell me I could move my car closer to it, it wasn't going to kill me.  Little did I know she, and a bunch of her coworkers, could see me from their office and were standing in the window watching and laughing at me.  Ok, every body laugh at the rookie who's never seen a moose before...

Moose #2.  Okay, so maybe I was a little far away.
Although magnificent animals, they can obviously also be quite dangerous. They're powerful and large, weighing between 800 and 1600 pounds! It's not uncommon to hear of the odd tourist approaching a moose in the town sqaure downtown to pet it.  However, most people know to give them their distance and the steps to take if they come across, and too close to, a moose.  Their body language is pretty easy to read - If they feel threatened and/or are about to charge, the ears go back, hackles (hair on the back of it's neck) go up.  Never ever get in between a mama and her baby, they're extremely protective.  If one charges, find a tree to hind behind, they can't turn very sharp.  And oh ya, those gangly front legs of theirs are used for kicking! I'll never forget when Steve and I were taking a walk through Kincaid Park and someone's dog was barking at something in the bushes at the side of the trail.  Before we knew it this moose came shooting out of the bushes right in front of us and almost kicked the dumb dog in the head.  Of course the dog continued to bark, and chase the moose.  You'd think he would have learned. 

There's a sign on the side of the highway when you head north to Wasilla that counts the number of moose killed in vehicle collisions so far this year in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, just north of Anchorage.  This morning the number was at 420.  Pretty sure 2 weeks ago when I drove past it it was at 380. Because of all of the snow we've had this winter, moose can't move around and are having a hard time finding food.  This is forcing them onto the roads and highways where it's easier for them to move. According to an Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist, the average number of moose killed in vehicle collisions per winter in that area is only 270. Safe to say, it's not a good year for Mr. Moose. (Read the article written in the National Post here.)

On a lighter note, here are some more fun moose photos... Enjoy :)

(Photo by Greg Martin, 2010) 
(Photo by Greg Martin, 2010)
Orphan moose calves at the zoo this past spring. (Photo by moi)
This moose wandered into Providence Hospital in Anchorage last week. (source)
Getting a little help from all of the snow we've had this winter. (source)

If you are interested in learning more about this magnificent animal, check out the Alaska Department of Fish & Games species profile here.