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Cranky from hunger, ungulates keep Fairbanks on edge
MOOSE: Authorities getting daily complaints about unruly visitors.

The Associated Press

(Published: February 28, 2003)
Fairbanks -- After being chased by dogs, dodging traffic and eating frozen wood all winter, moose in Fairbanks are getting a little testy.

"They're getting ornery," reported Tony Hollis, a technician at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks who handles moose calls for the agency. "They're low on (fat) reserves, and the food they're eating is not very good."

Fish and Game is getting calls almost daily about moose -- many of them showing signs of aggression -- in neighborhoods or near schools, Hollis said. In the past few days, Hollis has taken calls about hostile moose near two elementary schools and at the Carlson Center near downtown.

"We've had kids and adults chased," Hollis said. While there have been no injuries reported as a result of moose encounters in Fairbanks this winter, the potential always exists.

A contrary moose parked near the entrance of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Bunnell Building on Wednesday morning prompted police to issue a "moose alert," warning students and faculty to keep an eye out for unruly ungulates.

"We get worried, because a lot of people are walking in those common areas," police chief Terry Vrabec said. "We want them to pay attention so they don't get charged."

Vrabec's fear is a very real one. A 71-year-old man was stomped to death on campus at the University of Alaska Anchorage in January 1995 by a cow moose outside the Sports Center. That moose was shot four days later.

Vrabec can't remember the last time an aggressive moose was killed on his campus, but police resort to all kinds of techniques to herd them off school grounds, including pepper spray, sirens and lights and bean bags fired from shotguns.

"We'd much rather move it on than dispatch a moose," he said.

On Wednesday, officers used pepper spray to chase off a cow that showed up about 8 a.m. to munch on a tree at the entrance of the Bunnell Building.

"She was kind of mad," Vrabec said. "She was close to charging some officers."

Moose pose an especially dangerous threat on campus because they often find themselves backed into a corner by all the buildings, he said.

Fish and Game's Hollis advises people to stay as far as possible from moose and to remove any attractions that may be bringing them in, such as hay or salt on a driveway.

Part of the problem, he said, is that people often allow moose to hang around their neighborhoods without worrying about it until they become aggressive. The longer they linger without any negative consequences the harder they will be to drive out.

Because they are so common and often seem aloof, people often underestimate how dangerous a moose can be, Vrabec said. The UAF chief keeps a video tape of the stomping death at UAA in his office, and he occasionally shows it to demonstrate how quick and deadly a moose can be.

"If you haven't seen a moose charge and kick, you don't know what they can do," he said. "You only have a couple seconds when they decide to come at you. Until you see it, you can't believe it."

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Alyeska, hello, as usual another interesting read. One question though, are there not any food pantries that could use some moose meat? There are a couple of food lines here that would be, and are very grateful for any donated meat. I'm not sayin blast every critter that comes through town, but the ones that don't vacate the premises before it's welcome is worn out, well very tasty, so I hear.
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