Moose stomps pet poodle

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2003

Tuesday morning, Sally Youngberg's 13-year-old miniature poodle, Peaches, was killed in Youngberg's back yard by a moose cow.

"I let her out ... and she was chasing a robin," Youngberg said of Peaches. "A mother moose saw her and ran across (my) yard. She reared up and came down on her with front hooves three times."

Peaches died instantly.

Youngberg said the cow was accompanied by a very young calf, but she said her dog wasn't running in the direction of the moose.

"She was going away from the moose," she said of her dog. "I'm not sure if the moose was startled, because she came from a full charge from around the side of my house."

Youngberg lives in Soldotna on Katmai Avenue, just behind Central Peninsula General Hospital. Her back yard is fenced in on three sides, although she said she has seen the moose step over fences. Youngberg said there is a wooded area near the hospital where the moose have ranged for several years.

She said she was concerned because there were children living in the neighborhood and hospital patients who, because of physical conditions, might not be able to avoid a run-in.

"We did call animal control," Youngberg said. "They said they would just come and shoot it if it happened again."

Alaska Fish and Game area biologist Jeff Selinger said his office generally handles calls like this based on the situation.

"If we see a moose and the moose acts in a manner that is defending her calf and moving on, then we're going to leave her alone," he said. "If it is acting overly aggressive, we may have to dispatch the animal."

Youngberg said she didn't understand why the moose could not be anesthetized and removed from the area, the way nuisance bears are relocated.

"It leaves an awful option," she said.

Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis suggested free-ranging dogs, those pets or former pets allowed to roam untethered, may have indirectly contributed to the attack.

"It's purely speculation, but this animal may have been harassed by free-ranging animals," he said. "And when it got into that yard, it's a good possibility that she felt that dog was a threat."

A cow's nature is to defend itself and its offspring and if the animal felt threatened, it would respond, he said.

Lewis said pet owners should keep their dogs on a leash when they walk them and use eight-foot fencing to protect their pets from moose and other animals that may roam through town.

As far as moving the moose, Lewis and Selinger said that is not practical for a number of reasons.

"We don't move moose as a general rule," Selinger said. "You need special equipment to lift them, crate them and hoist them up onto a flatbed truck to move them. It's cost prohibitive and we just don't have the equipment at our disposal."

Lewis said such action also could be harmful to moose and moose calves.

"Moving the moose is really not an option. You move this moose and another one will take its place," Lewis said. "It's stressful to the animal and its hard on the calf. That calf is nursing and the animal has narcotics in her system.

"And we don't have the budget to move the animal."

Lewis also suggested neighbors communicate with other neighbors, particularly if there are children in the area who could unwittingly put themselves in danger of an encounter with a moose, bear, wolf or other potentially harmful Alaska wildlife.

"We live in coastal Alaska, and with that you accept a certain amount of responsibility to behave around these animals," Lewis said. "It's easier for us to modify our behavior than it is to modify the animals' behavior."

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