Seeing moose lazily browsing on willow shoots growing alongside the road can be a memorable experience, but not nearly as memorable as having one of the big brown beasts fly through the windshield at 55 miles per hour.
Every year numerous motorists find out firsthand what this is like, but according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, a few less people found out this past regulatory year, which ran July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2006.
“The roadkill numbers were down. Last year we only had 213 moose hit and recovered,” said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.
This is a significant drop from the same time period during the 2004-05 regulatory year, when 248 moose were hit. According to Lewis, it also is less than the 20-year average of 263 moose per year.
In addition to the 213 moose hit and recovered, Lewis said there were an 38 reported hit, but not recovered.
Last year’s mild winter likely played a part in why roadkill numbers are down, according to Thomas McDonough, an assistant area biologist with Fish and Game.
“Last winter wasn’t as severe as the year before,” he said.
Rather than trudging through deep snow, which is metabolically demanding on moose during a time of year when they don’t have calories to spare, they often prefer the ease of walking on the plowed road system as they move back and forth between feeding locations, McDonough said.
“When the snow is deep, they’ll focus on roads and trails, anywhere they can find an easier route,” he said.
With temperatures above freezing and rain falling throughout much of December and January, moose had it relatively easy compared to a more typical winter, and subsequently were less likely to be on the roads.
Of course moose aren’t the only animals motorists can collide with. Lewis said several other species were hit this past regulatory year.
“We also had four bears hit and recovered one brown bear and three black bears,” he said.
As with moose, some bears were also hit and not recovered. Lewis said these included three black bears and four bears that could not be identified by species because of how quickly the accidents occurred.
“We also had three caribou, one coyote, three geese and three eagles hit,” he said.
Lewis said these are all the animals he knows about, but there may also have been moose and other species hit and not reported during the regulatory year.
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