Orphan calf finds new home at Anchorage Zoo

Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- It took a makeshift lasso, a wheelbarrow, pillowcase and an hour of chasing, but Mike Gardner finally caught the moose calf.

The calf's mother lay dead off the Campbell Creek bike trail. The young animal was wandering where it could get in trouble, through a south Anchorage neighborhood that backs up to a busy street.

''We just couldn't see leaving it out there,'' Gardner said as he stood on his lawn last Friday. The moose, a male 5 or 6 months old, rested in a woodsy corner of Gardner's back yard.

''He was pretty traumatized,'' he said.

The gangly youngster -- fuzzy-furred and waist-high, with huge ears and seemingly all legs -- had been sighted alone munching on grass around the neighborhood for more than a week. Neighbors called the state Department of Fish and Game, which warned them that sometimes moose calves are separated from their mothers for up to a week.

It wasn't until a neighbor noticed a stench wafting off the bike trail behind her house that Gardner started looking for mama. When he found her body, he decided to catch the moose calf.

The baby moose kept returning to its mother, Gardner said, and teen-agers had been seen teasing and scaring it.

Gardner found a stick and some rope and chased the calf around for an hour. Finally, he lassoed the 100-pound animal.

The calf towed him around and over its dead mother. ''He and I fell several times coming out,'' Gardner said.

''He just made the saddest sound,'' he said. ''He sounds like a lamb.''

Once on the trail, Gardner struggled with the moose until he arrived 100 yards down the trail at his neighbor's house. The rope around the moose's neck was too tight, so a neighbor ran for a pillow case and wheelbarrow.

''Then I hogtied him and put a pillowcase on his head (to calm him down),'' he said. Eventually the moose was lifted into the red cart and rolled into Gardner's back yard.

Rick Sinnott, the Fish and Game Department's area biologist, arrived with a dog kennel to transport the moose to the Alaska Zoo.

Gardner's catch became the eighth moose calf to arrive at the zoo this season, said Sammye Seawell, the zoo's director. That's a zoo record.

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