Roadkill numbers higher than usual

Peninsula on track to hit above average tally

Posted: Monday, December 20, 2004

 

  A moose browses in snow while keeping an eye on the horizon for danger. More than 140 of the animals have been killed on Kenai Peninsula roads during the last six months. Photo by M. Scott Moon

A moose browses in snow while keeping an eye on the horizon for danger. More than 140 of the animals have been killed on Kenai Peninsula roads during the last six months.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

It's easy to get caught up in all the holiday hubbub of zipping to and from stores while attempting to finish seasonal shopping, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a bit of advice for distracted driver:

"Don't get tunnel vision going from point A to point B," said Jeff Selinger, area manager for Fish and Game in Soldotna.

As of Thursday morning, 141 moose roadkills have been reported on the Kenai Peninsula so far this regulatory season, which runs annually from July 1 to June 30.

"And, I would expect we'll probably be at around 150 roadkills by the turning of the calender to January," Selinger said.

This projected figure will still be slightly below the number of moose roadkills last season, in which there were more than 200 animals killed by the end of December.

However, last season was one of the highest years on record since the mid-1980s. In other words, although roadkills are down this season, they are not below the average.

"The long-term average is 135 moose killed by the end of December. We're at 141 now, and December, January and February are typically peak months for roadkills, so we're probably on track for another large year," Selinger said.

He cited several reason roadkill numbers rise around this time of year.

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.

There is a lot of good browse available along the road system where the right of way has been cleared and swaths of willow — a preferred winter food of moose — have flourished.

Also, winter is the time when icy road conditions can make quick stops challenging and the amount of daylight is at a minimum, thus reducing visibility.

"We've got high volumes of people going to and from work in the dark, and the moose are dark, so they are very difficult to see at this time of year," Selinger said.

The dark driving conditions are even worse outside cities, where street lights and traffic lights are few and far between. Motorists may not heed the posted speed limits, as well.

Although moose can be anywhere at anytime, several locations around the peninsula have a high frequency of roadkills.

Selinger said the stretch of Kalifornsky Beach Road between Bridge Access Road and the Sterling Highway in Kasilof is one such area. Others are the Kenai Spur Highway around the Beaver Creek area and the stretch between Kenai and Nikiski.

The Sterling Highway between Soldotna and Kasilof, between Soldotna and Sterling and five miles on either side of the east fork of the Moose River are frequent areas for roadkills, as well, Selinger said.

"Those are all natural corridors for moose," he said.

The long-term average for roadkills during the entire regulatory year is 270 moose. Last year 330 were reported. The highest number of moose roadkills on record is 366, reported during the 1989-90 season.



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