Strides for safer roadways for moose (and man)

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010

Like the gait of the long-legged ungulates they seek to keep from crashing through windshields, the Alaska Moose Federation is making great strides toward creating safer roadways around the state, including on the Kenai Peninsula.

Photo Courtesy Of The Alaska Moose Federation
Photo Courtesy Of The Alaska Moose Federation
Members of the Alaska Moose Federation use the group's Tucker snow cat to help retrieve six snowmachines which rescuers had been forced to leave in the Snow River near Seward. The federation is planning on expanding programs in the Kenai Peninsula area.

"The program is ever-expanding," said Alaska Moose Federation Chairman Gary Olson in regard to mitigation efforts being planned to reduce the number of moose-vehicle collisions by redirecting moose away from roads, particularly in high-incidence zones.

The methods in the federation's plan include creating moose trails away from highways and highway right-of-ways, managing adjacent habitat and managing roadside moose browse.

"It's to encourage moose off the roadways and away from highway corridors by taking the road surface to them," Olson said. "They're just trying to conserve energy by finding easy walking, and we can do that."

Using an orange, 1994 Tucker snow cat purchased with a state legislative grant, right-of-ways along highways are cleared to as much as 150 to 200 feet from the center line, and paths are put in away from highways to off-road browse sites.

"We'll go in, cut the brush and clear it out," Olson said. "We'll also fell big birch and willow trees in the process, and this creates a food source for them, just like they're looking for along the highways."

The federation currently carries out clearing work on the historic Iditarod Trail out of Seward, as well as some other trails in the area for the U.S. Forest Service. There are also plans for additional clearing north of Seward at the end of the month.

"The upcoming work in Cooper Landing is adding the old road from Tern Lake to Quartz Creek -- about 8 miles -- into our growing number of trails used for diversionary snow trails statewide," Olson said.

Once in, the route will be recorded using a global positioning system so that it can be cleared in future winters, regardless of inclement weather.

"Once GPSed, our snow cats can go back and punch it in in deep snow," he said. "We could literally do it in a blizzard."

The Cooper Landing clearing efforts were scheduled for Saturday, but Olson said the federation would instead take part in the ongoing recovery efforts for the snowmachiner who was killed last weekend in the Grandview area.

"This was a tremendous example of other benefits with having equipment like this around the Peninsula," Olson said.

He added that this was not the first time the federation's equipment has been used for search and rescue efforts this season.

"We also participated in a snowmachiner rescue last Saturday where they actually strapped the rescue sled to the top of our Tucker snow cat," Oslon said. "We helped retrieve six snowmachines which rescuers had been forced to leave in the Snow River. It was an amazing effort that occurred while two feet of snow fell on the way in, and another one foot fell on the way out, so the entire effort was in full white-out conditions."

The federation is also planning on expanding its moose salvage program, which has been very successful in the Anchorage area already this season.

"Since our program began in December, we are saving the (Anchorage Police Department) approximately 2-2.5 hours per retrieval," Olson said. "This is an outstanding program which we're hoping to expand to the Kenai Peninsula."

Through these efforts the salvage charities do not change.

"They still receive the moose -- delivered whole to them -- rather than them being out on the road surface, typically in very poor driving conditions," he said.

To learn more about the Alaska Moose Federation, visit their Web site at www.growmoremoose.org. The federation makes regular updates on Facebook about its ongoing programs.

They also have their first Kenai banquet happening on March 13 at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai. Banquet tickets are available at Harry's Barbershop next to Sal's Restaurant in Soldotna.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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