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Road kill provides meal for residents and data for scientists

Dead meat

Posted: January 7, 2013 - 8:19am
A moose walks through the snow in downtown Kenai on Friday. Traffic-related moose deaths are an issue year-round.  Brian Smith
Brian Smith
A moose walks through the snow in downtown Kenai on Friday. Traffic-related moose deaths are an issue year-round.

It’s 1:30 a.m. when Laurie Speakman gets the call. Alaska State Trooper Dispatch tells her another one has been hit and gives her the GPS coordinates.

Outside it’s probably below zero when she starts the pickup, equip with a flashing siren, a wench and a boom.

She dresses in thick clothing while coffee brews and the tuck warms. Then she drives from a warm bed and sleeping husband to pick up another dead moose from another car accident.

That is a typical call for Speakman, a salvage driver on the Kenai Peninsula for the Alaska Moose Federation. She collects dead moose between Cooper Landing, Ninilchik and Nikiski and drops them in the yards of community members who are on the charity list. There are three other salvage teams that cover the Peninsula.

“We don’t gut them. We don’t skin them. We don’t bleed them out,” she said. “We don’t do any of that stuff. We just load the moose and bring it straight to the charity.”

Since July 1, 94 moose have been hit and killed by vehicles on the Peninsula as of Dec. 28, said Jeff Selinger, Kenai area research biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The majority of the deaths occur during the short winter days on the highways that link Soldotna, Kasilof, Sterling and Nikiski, the roads that see a lot of commuter traffic, Selinger said. In an average year, he said about 250 moose are killed on the roads — a majority of those moose cows and calves. They are attracted to the fresh foliage that grows on the right of ways, he said.

Since Speakman signed on as a driver in April she has salvaged more than 140 moose.

When Speakman drops the moose off, the charities are responsible for the rest — but they used to play a bigger role. Before the salvage drivers, they had to collect the moose themselves.

“We’d have to truck out there and find where it got hit and try to finagle it onto the back of the truck or on the a trailer and then take it to where we were going to process it,” said Frank Alioto, a member of a local church on the charity list.

He said it was a difficult process.

“It was always interesting to try to get the people that were part of our road kill ministry team out at three in the morning,” he said, “because everybody says they’ll do it, but they don’t answer their phone.”

It was also dangerous, said Gary Olson, AMF founder and executive director. He said one time, in Anchorage, two grandmothers were learning to butcher a yearling on the side of the fast lane. It took them nine hours, he said.

That taxed police who had to monitor the process, it slowed traffic and it was obviously dangerous to the charities, he said.

“When (the drivers) are called to respond, which typically is at 2 a.m. in the middle of a snow storm, (they are) there for less than 10 minutes,” he said.

Now that Speakman and the three other salvaging teams on the Peninsula pick up and deliver, the charities, only handle the processing.

“The moose federation has made it a whole lot easier to take part in this program and not drive all the way across highways to pick up moose,” Alioto said.

Often about 75 percent of the meat is recoverable, he said, and with reduced hunting opportunities over the past few years, the road-killed moose are a good opportunity for meat.

But that is not the only intent for the program, Olson said.

“The Moose Federation wants to do better than just picking up dead moose off broken cars and hurt people,” he said.

Olson said the program also gathers data to help the Alaska Department of Transportation and Fish and Game prevent further moose-vehicle collisions.

“One of the components here is historically 50 percent of all collisions are calves,” he said, “but when you look out in the woods, 50 percent of the population is not calves.”

About 40 percent of moose hit are cows; 10 percent are bulls, he said.

“So there’s questions that need to be answered, and our continued work with the agencies — through DOT and Fish and Game — will definitely provide a lot of science to these questions,” he said.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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shadowmt 01/08/13 - 09:02 am
road kill

I believe that the addition of the salvage drivers is wonderful idea. But it is not as easy as people think to get a call for a road kill since this process was changed over to the churches. Unless you are a member of their church you are going to be the last person they call. I have a disabled friend who is not a member of any churches. She called 6 different numbers off the list that was given to her and after 7 months (last winter) she was finally called. I drove her to pick up the quartered moose, what a joke! Both the hind and front quarter fit in a 5 gallon bucket. 24lbs. meat after the bones were removed.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 01/08/13 - 01:18 pm
Boned out moose

I do the moose for our church and please allow me to explain that when i get done processing a moose, depending on the age/size of moose you really don't get that much meat.
When one carves off the bloodshoot portion of the moose along with bones and sinue very little remains. We got 3 young moose born this yr and when it's said and done we got around 80lbs of meat. The last moose we got was a 21/2 yr old bull and we got right at 200lbs of meat.
Laurie called me and asked if i would talk with this reporter about the program and the Moose Federations taking over the pickup & deliverary of the moose to who ever the AST dispatch can get to accept the moose.
I'm still waiting for that call from the reporter to share my view of this change from people going out and getting the moose off the road ways, to what is now the job of the Moose Federation.
I may be wrong, but, i do believe that others, than churches, do get called and moose are delivered if and when they accept the calls WHICH ARE MANY. I have a fellow brother in Christ that works for home health organizations here on the Kenai and he has helped one client out Funny river who has received several moose this past yr, and they are not a church, just diabled.
I have turned down TWO calls in December, so someone else got those moose.
As for getting 25lbs of meat for free simply by picking it up, i'll say this, bring it on, i'll take that free food any day someone wants to give it to me and i have to do nothing other than accept it.
The state of Alaska has thousands of moose killed each yr on highways as well as railways, but, the moose on the railroads don't get salvaged unless i'm wrong, while the road kills do, and it is a benefit to many, not just churches.
The state of Illinois just passed a law making it now legal for citizens to collect road killed animals which could feed alot of people. Many states don't allow it and thats a shame, what a waste, i'm thanful that we Alaskans can and do use these huge animals to help feed others.

shadowmt 01/08/13 - 05:09 pm
the meat was not really free

Your right the meat was free simply by picking it up except for the gas it took to drive 25miles. As far as not having to nothing other than accept it was not the way it was. This disabled (cannot walk) person had to clean the hair off and cut the meat up and grind it into hamburger. It was alot of work for someone in her condition. She has also been waiting to be called for one this winter since last October with no luck so far.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 01/08/13 - 08:24 pm

Sorry to hear that this was the case for your friend and i could go off on a tangent over this action, but, will not.
Does your friend live here in Soldotna area? If so i would love to Bless her with good clean already processed moose meat when we, i get some. If she does not live locally, then i am sorry that others will not help her out.
Please send me a note via the clarion as how to get ahold of you or her so this can be done for her if she is a local of the Kenai area.
My wife and i process and share it all, the church pays for the grinding or burger, as by the time i get done after usually 2 days of working on these moose i am so sore i can't hardly move. My desire has always been to take care of any game or food to the best of my ability so as not to loose any due to mishandling it. I even save the bad meat and bones for mushers to feed their dogs. It's to much work done to allow it to be wasted.
As i said please let me know how to Bless her, either by you meeting with me and getting the meat or by my taking it to her, and it shall be done.
Thanks for being her friend and mentioning this here on line. This food is ment for the Needy, not the Greedy and should be a Blessing to both the receiver and the givers, especially after someone probably had their car or truck ruined by this accident of hitting a moose. Of course sometimes this is not the case and the needy are left out while the greedy prosper, for now that is. We will all give an answer for the things we did or did not do, all pertaining to Gods rules, not ours.

p.s. i still have not figured out how giving the ADF&G the teeth and leg bone off these road kills is going to educate the ADF&G on why the Moose crossed the road and got kilt by being hit by a car or truck while trying to do so.

potomac 01/09/13 - 05:09 pm
sodium/salt road deicer

that wasn't mentioned, we had a moose car wash we filmed one day, a calf and mom licked a 3/4 ton truck and a car completely clean, all the miles of roads on the Peninsula are one long salt block, if you happened to notice , most of the kills are on curves or hills which get the most road deicer. The is all over America too as they have gone the same route over the years and sheep, elk , you name it are run into licking the road salts. I would love to see some motion triggered signs and less salt, and a winter speed limit of 50mph but I am sure folks woulds rather see moose ran over than slow down. The population is not going to come back without controlled burns and several other tools as the ones mentioned above, and probably several more the folks in charge have thought of , but we all know how politics get's in the way of good science...

jlmh 01/17/13 - 12:08 am
salted car

I think it's hilarious watching moose lick cars. I saw three moose all working on one in my driveway at the same time! A big salt lick party, I guess.

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