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Backcountry Conditions Driving Moose Into Town, Easy Meals

Jarl Gustafson
A young moose takes a respite from the snow on the KBBI front porch. Fortunately, we have a back door.

ADF&G advises residents to be careful with animal feed and pets.

It’s been a long winter, and with a couple months still to go, moose have become creative in where they find a meal. There have been more reports of moose in town, and of them getting harassed by neighborhood dogs.

Jason Herreman is the assistant area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer. He says many of the same things that attract bears will bring hungry moose in as well.

“Bird feeders, believe it or not, can be a problem when it comes to moose this time of year. You know, having those feeders up where moose can't get into them and cleaning up the seed off the ground helps to keep the moose from coming around and becoming defensive of an area, same thing with, you know, chicken feed. We got a lot of folks in town who have backyard chickens, you know, making sure that feed is cleaned up and those chickens are fed in a contained manner, pretty important. We also have issues with compost this time of year, you know, maybe someone doesn't have the compost in a fenced area, maybe the, the lid doesn't get on the bin tight. I've had to deal with a moose getting their head stuck in compost bins before, especially as they get later in the season, those moose are trying to find whatever they can to eat, so that can become an issue. As well as, believe it or not, just general trash in town. So making sure that trash is stored properly, you know, if folks are going to keep trash outside we ask that they keep it in a bear resistant container, and those work well for moose too,” Herreman said.

He also said livestock owners might be asking for freeloaders if moose get the opportunity to eat hay straight from bales left for horses in the field.

“Moose will come into that, and so, we really suggest that if people are going to feed their, their horses out in the pasture or out in the fence period, you know, just put out what the horse will eat in a sitting, don't, you know, be throwing a whole bale out there and leaving it for a week because moose will hop over the fence. They'll be out there in the horses eating that feed, and then we get complaints about that,” Herreman said.

Herreman said the lean times of late winter are precarious for moose, when they’re trying to survive until spring. He says he asks people to just give them space.

“These animals at this time of year are really trying to limit their energy expenditure, you know, trying not to move around a whole lot, doing a little bit of foraging. And so, folks can give moose their space. That's the first place that we ask that they start. And you're, you're getting into dogs a little bit there. And that's where we often see a lot of our conflicts, is people with dogs, and that can be as simple as somebody not looking out the window when they let the pup out in the morning to, to do his business, to you know, folks having loose dogs that are are running around on the landscape. We get those calls where there's, dogs are loose and running and chasing wildlife, and we do ask that when folks do see something like that they please call us because we do like to adjust, those situations,” Herreman said.

Herreman said the laws surrounding pets harassing wildlife have not changed from the days when more people were inclined to take matters into their own hands, but he suggests that for safety and neighborly relations folks call Fish and Game or the Alaska Wildlife Troopers with any complaints.

One last piece of advice Herreman had was not something you might think about -- unless it’s happened to you.

“You know, there's a lot of folks who live in dry cabins around here walking back into those. A lot of times, they only have one trail in and out, and, really suggest that folks have multiple trails going in and out because the moose tend to walk those trails this time of year, and you can tend to get stuck in your, your cabin with a feisty moose, or stuck at your car with a feisty moose in, in the middle between where you're trying to get to and having that alternative route can save both you and, and that moose a little bit of stress,” Herreman said.

And as if the winter didn’t already have enough shoveling, Herreman suggested digging out around fences where snow’s built up to keep moose from just stepping over them.

Jay Barrett, KBBI's new News Director should be a familiar voice to our listeners. He's been contributing to Kenai Peninsula news for the last three years out of KDLL Kenai, and was the voice of The Alaska Fisheries Report from KMXT for 12 years. Jay worked for KBBI about 20 years ago as the Central Peninsula Reporter at KDLL.