Moose calving season approaching

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2002

As the new crop of moose hit the ground for the first time in the following weeks, they and their proud mothers will immediately be faced with the prospect of survival.

With bears, wolves and the occasional coyote on the prowl for easy pickings, the last thing these new animals need is additional strife from man's best friend.

Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna, said the state has "zero tolerance" for free-ranging dogs bothering young calves.

"We don't gather them up and take them home," he said. "We shoot them."

According to an Alaska Statute for "Killing Dogs Annoying or Evincing Tendency to Bite Animals or Fowls," any person who sees a dog going after a calf, pestering a cow or threatening the happy solitude of the newborn and mother, may lawfully "dispatch" the dog.

Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection Lt. Steve Bear said the goal is to encourage people to keep their pets on a short reign during this time, not to promote shooting dogs.

"Just be aware that this is a critical time," he said. "There are a lot of young animals out there. I would certainly encourage people who aren't going to be home with their dogs to chain them up during the day."

Kenai area Fish and Game biologist Ted Spraker said a lot of times, the dogs are attacking the calves at night, unbeknownst to the pet owner.

"People will say (of their dog), 'He sleeps all day and doesn't even eat,'" Spraker said. "That dog is probably up all night trying to eat calves."

Municipalities have animal control staff, but Marianne Clark, of the Soldotna Animal Control Center, said the problem often occurs outside city boundaries where she has no jurisdiction and where the Kenai Peninsula Borough has no dog-catchers.

"I've never had a situation where a dog had an animal down," she said. "Within the city, we haven't had any real problems with dogs chasing moose. We've gotten calls from outside town, and we refer them to the (Fish and Wildlife) Troopers."

Bear said a few bad dogs can spoil things for good ones, as well as for responsible dog owners.

"I would be careful when you're walking with your dogs," he said. "A mother moose that may have been chased by a dog in the past may decide to charge."

Lewis said even playful, well-meaning dogs can stir the ire of an already defensive cow.

"A lot of times, these can be good dogs," he said. "They have an instinct to chase anything that runs from them, but the cow will see them as a threat."

Lewis said dogs can interfere with Nature's delicate balance, and offered an explanation for the state's hard line regarding moose chasers.

"They're not part of the natural system," he said. "They're not depending on them as a food source. These dogs go out and kill calves and go home and lay by their dish and get fed.

"One bite wound is a fatal wound for these calves," Lewis continued. "It's a real waste of our resource."

Bear said he hoped an owner's concern for their pet would move them to control their animal during this time.

"If we show up and find a dog that is actively biting an animal, the dog will be dispatched," he said. "Most people love their dogs enough that they are going to take some kind of action. Especially if they find out that it's going to be a death sentence for their dog."

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