Moose on the loose

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2001

Since July 1, 102 moose have been killed on Kenai Peninsula roads according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"Over all, road kills are down this year," said Soldotna wildlife technician Larry Lewis, adding that the kills have occurred steadily since July. Recently, the mammals have been showing around roads more frequently because of the increased snow levels.

Lewis said with less snow cover, moose stayed in their summer-fall range, which is in higher elevations.

"If people are seeing more moose, it is because they are starting to move into their winter range," he said.

Although vehicle accidents involving moose have decreased slightly overall, that didn't prevent two incidents from occurring on Wednesday. According to Alaska State Troopers, two collisions involving moose occurred within five hours of each other.

Dino Leite of Kasilof was heading to work Wednesday morning shortly before 8 a.m. when he slowed down for a turning car in front of him.

When he resumed travel, he noticed the animal.

"As I came around the corner, it was standing in the middle of the road," he said.

Leite's efforts to avoid the moose failed, and it hit the windshield and rolled over the vehicle at Mile 112.5 of the Sterling Highway.

The collision was a first for Leite. He said the moose he hit was a calf, and its mother was standing off the road.

"It was one of the bigger calves I had seen;" he said.

Leite was transported to Central Peninsula General Hospital and received stitches in his hand from injuries caused by windshield glass.

Troopers responded to another collision involving a moose at 1:45 p.m. at Mile 51 of the Sterling Highway.

An Anchorage man and his passenger sustained minor injuries as a result of the accident. Damages to the vehicle were $3,500 and the moose was salvaged by a local charity.

Debbie Loggins, office manager for the Ninilchik Native Descendants, said when a moose or bear is hit, her office gets a call from troopers or Fish and Game officials who are looking for someone to come salvage the meat.

"I start calling from our list and try to find someone close to the location," she said.

Loggins then has 15 minutes to find someone on the list and pass the information back to troopers or Fish and Game.

She estimated that there are approximately 42 people or organizations on NND's list.

"There just hasn't been much road kill this year. With less snow, the moose have stayed back,"

In spite of the recent accidents, Kenai Peninsula officials said numbers of road kills are still noticeably low.

"Actually, this winter, there has been less along the highways," said Billy D. Pool, highway maintenance foreman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Soldotna.

He said he believes moose there have been less prevalent because of the lack of snow.

Pool said residents should be especially watchful of moose at miles 7 through 8 on the Kenai Spur Highway and on Bridge Access Road. He said moose have been seen crossing in those areas.

Ed French, a paramedic with Central Emergency Services, said he does not believe there has been an increase in injury accidents this year from moose collisions.

"I have not been on a moose wreck (call) since early in the winter," he said.

CES does not respond to all moose-vehicle accidents; they are only called for accidents that involve injuries.

"It seems like in years with more snow, there are more moose accidents," he said.

Lewis urged residents to drive slowly and always be cautious for moose.

"Slow down, leave earlier and don't overdrive your headlights."

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