Unfortunate moose find their way from pavement to plates in Alaska's road kill salvage program

Accidental Dinner

Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2006

 

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  Flossie Morey puts the finishing touches on a stew made from the road-killed moose she salvaged with her neighbor earlier this month. ┐Being on a fixed income, this really helps,┐ she said. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Flossie Morey puts the finishing touches on a stew made from the road-killed moose she salvaged with her neighbor earlier this month. Being on a fixed income, this really helps, she said.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Flossie Morey snapped on a pair of latex gloves as she prepared to massage a medley of vegetables into a bowl of ground meat. Chopped red and green peppers, carrot, garlic and onion all spilled into the bowel as she tipped a plastic food processor cup over the meat.

The meat yielded to Morey’s warm fingers, swallowing up the colorful bits of vegetable as she squeezed it in her hands.

At first glance the meat looks like any other bowl of ground red meat. But as anyone who has ever eaten moose will tell you, this meat deserves the extra attention of an appreciative cook like Morey.

Morey didn’t find her meat in a grocery store on a Styrofoam tray pressed behind a film of clear plastic.

No, moose meat is like love. You can earn it and you can share it, but you can’t buy it.

Last January Morey spent an evening in the dark alongside the Kenai Spur Highway lifting knobby moose legs taller than herself while her neighbor, Fred Perez, divided the flesh and removed the hide with his hunting knife.

 

Flossie Morey, Fred Perez and his fianc Amanda butcher a moose that had been killed by a vehicle on the Kenai Spur Highway earlier this year in an area of the road some people call Blood Alley. Hundreds of moose are killed on the Kenai Peninsulas streets each year but much of the meat is salvaged.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The moose had died after a vehicle hit it on the highway and Perez was called and offered the moose’s remains by a charity that works with Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to salvage road kill moose.

Perez had signed up on Jubilee Baptist Church’s road kill charity call list about six months earlier and when he received their call reporting the moose kill he asked Morey if she would like to help and share his good fortune.

“It doesn’t make sense to horde all of the moose for myself,” he said.

Perez has a wife and two children, but a moose carries a lot of meat and it’s nearly impossible to store an entire moose at home, he said.

An adult moose can yield an average of 560 pounds of meat, according to Sgt. Glenn Godfrey of the trooper Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement in Soldotna.

Although 100-200 pounds of meat is typically lost due to the destructive force of the vehicle’s impact on a road kill moose, that still leaves an average of 360-460 pounds of meat to be salvaged for human consumption.

Even after the Kenai Spur Highway moose had been divided between Perez, Morey and Morey’s son, Perez and his family struggled to find freezer space for the 200 pounds of moose meat they received from the carcass.

 

Perez and Harley carry meat to Perezs truck. Cold and darkness often greet those who are called out to harvest road-killed moose.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

“We had to do a lot of shifting, but we made it fit,” he said.

Although any moose-vehicle accident is unfortunate, the moose salvage program helps to bring some good out of an otherwise bad situation.

“Generally, there’s so much salvageable meat on a moose it’d be a crying shame not to do anything with it,” said Larry Lewis, a Fish and Game wildlife technician.

When a moose is downed due to a vehicle accident and reported to troopers, troopers call one of approximately 40 charities. The charity then takes responsibility for removing the entire moose from the scene of the accident and for salvaging the meat.

Each charity handles a moose kill slightly differently. Some butcher and remove the carcass themselves and then distribute the meat to people in need. Others keep lists of people who have called them, are interested in receiving meat and willing to butcher and remove the carcass. In some cases the charity requests that the person called donate a portion of the meat to the charity for distribution.

 

Morey molds moose meat into a meat loaf in her kitchen in Kenai. She appreciates the meats quality. Its all organic, all natural, she said.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

In Perez and Morey’s case the charity did not request a portion of the meat. And in addition to the 200 pounds Perez took home, Morey received 99 and Morey’s son was given the meat-laden ribcage and backbone.

People interested in contacting charities to become involved in the moose salvage program can find out which of their local charities are participating in the program by calling or visiting the Fish and Game office in Kenai.

People who sign up with a charity to butcher and remove a moose themselves should keep a few tools ready and be prepared to respond at any hour, Perez said.

He said that he always keeps a tarp, two to three good hunting knives with gut hooks and a knife sharpener ready in case he gets a call.

Perez, who has now salvaged three moose over a four-year period, said he generally expects to receive a call when temperatures drop and darkness falls.

The night that Perez and Morey salvaged their moose from the Spur Highway, Perez received the charity’s call early in the evening. Perez contacted Morey by 7:30 p.m. Morey didn’t have any prior experience butchering moose, but agreed to join Perez.

“I said, ‘Oh sure, why not,’” she said. “I had nothing going on that night.”

When Perez and Morey arrived on the scene they found a large cow laying on the shoulder of highway. The moose was laying close to traffic and was too heavy to move, so Perez and Morey parked their vehicles at opposite ends of the carcass and turned on their flashers to alert traffic.

 

Flossie Morey ladles moose stew into a serving dish in her apartment in Kenai. She helped her neighbor salvage the animal which had been killed by a vehicle earlier this winter alongside the Kenai Spur Highway. Morey said stew, meat loaf and burgers were her favorite recipes, but moose is as versatile as beef.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Morey said she thought the butchering took approximately two and half hours.

“Not bad for a young buck and little old lady,” she said, commenting on what a good team the pair made.

Perez agreed, and although he did most of the actual butchering he said that Morey’s help was a blessing.

“It’s hard to butcher a moose by yourself,” he said. “She did really good. I was really happy to have her.”

Attempting to butcher a moose alone along a roadway would have been particularly difficult, he said.

“If you’re in the woods you can use trees to tie back legs, but when you are on the side of the road you don’t really have those options,” he said.

Morey said the work was hard, but well worth it.

Now more than two months later on a cold, gray day in early April, Morey could be found warmly patting her moose meatloaf into a bread pan in her Kenai home, still enjoying and sharing the bounty she received courtesy of the moose salvage program.

As Morey demonstrated her moose meatloaf recipe, a moose meat stew was already filling the kitchen and dining room with welcoming aromas.

Morey openly shared her meatloaf recipe, but when asked about her stew she flashed a coy smile. She would share the stew, but not the recipe, she replied.

 

Phil Weber (red cap) and Ron Gravenhorst harvest a road-killed moose on the Sterling Highway west of Cooper Landing a few years ago in an area that sees many moose-vehicle collisions.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

“Martha Stewart will have to pay me if she wants it,” she said.

She has not named her moose stew, but said that her son doesn’t need a special name to spread the word about it.

“He told his friends, ‘My mom makes the best moose stew,’” she said. “I’m not sure what to call it. Maybe I should call it ‘Mom’s Best Moose Stew.’”

Most of Morey’s recipes originate from an old cookbook that sits perched on the counter next to her stove. Its original binding crumbled long ago and duct tape now holds the together the cover and tired pages, yellowed with age and frequent use.

Morey said most of her recipes build upon the recipes she found in this cookbook.

When asked about how cooking techniques differ between preparing beef and moose, Morey said she generally treats them the same but likes to add a dash of allspice to her moose to mask the gamy flavor.

But Morey said that she does not have to worry about the gamy flavor of this moose meat as much as she would meat from a fall hunt moose.

“It has a wild, wild taste to it,” she said, referring to fall moose. “This one will taste better.”

She also takes extra care to ensure that the meat does not dry out when being cooked since it does not have as much fat to keep it moist.

 

Brian Harley and Fred Perez are silhouetted in steam as they butcher a road-killed moose late on a cold night last January. Most moose are hit at night when visibility is poor.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Although moose meat may dry easier than beef, it is superior to beef in another way, Morey said as the moose stew sat gurgling on the stove behind her.

Unlike beef, she doesn’t have to worry about hormones or antibiotics added to the meat, which can trigger unwanted side effects, she said.

“It’s all organic, all natural,” she said.

And the moose meat Morey received has further reduced her worries by reducing her grocery bill as well, she said.

“Being on a fixed income, this really helps,” she said. “It’s a good program, it helps me with my grocery bill.”

Perez said that he and his family love and respect moose, and are truly grateful for the moose salvage program, which also has taken a bite out their grocery bill.

“It’s been helpful to us and a lot of people we know,” he said. “I guess it’s just another perk to living in Alaska.”

Morey’s Moose Meatloaf

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground moose meat

1 small carrot

1/4 red pepper

1/4 green pepper

1/4 yellow onion

1 clove of garlic

2 eggs

Dash of A1 steak sauce

Dash of ketchup

1/2 block of tofu, firm

Dash of allspice

Chop all the carrot, peppers onion and garlic into small pieces. Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly by hand and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place meatloaf in a bread pan and bake for approximately one hour.

Perez’s Moose Jerky

Ingredients:

2 pounds moose roast sliced thin

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups soy sauce

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 tablespoon cayenne powder

Combine all ingredients and soak the meat for 24 hours. Air dry the meat for six hours and then smoke until the desired dryness is reached.



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