Alaska Moose Federation’s primary goal is public safety. Keeping moose off Alaska roads and highways and minimizing moose/vehicle collisions is paramount for citizens who have every right to drive safely in Alaska. AMF has succeeded in building capacity and expanding programs under the guidance of Alaska Department of Fish & Game, whose current leadership understands these values unlike Mr. Regelin’s past failure to support moose/safety programs during his reign.
For the Salvage Program, AMF’s only duties are to respond (24/7) to calls, retrieve the moose, and deliver it to a charity as specified by Public Safety. AMF is not involved in charity choice or distribution of moose, ever. Supporters of the salvage program include the Anchorage Police Department, Anchorage Police Department Employee’s Association, Alaska State Troopers, city of Anchorage, Mat-Su Borough, Alaska Trucking Association and a very thankful charity list who no longer have to cut up a moose on the highway at 3 a.m.
The Salvage Program has a documented savings of 2.5 hours per retrieval in law enforcement time, which allow officers to focus on other priorities much faster. In addition, the salvage program was funded for $573,800, not $1.4 million as suggested, and it expanded capability from Anchorage-only to now include Mat-Su, Fairbanks, and Kenai Peninsula (which was not originally scheduled to start until next winter).
The primary pursuit of the Rescue and Relocation grant is to address the epic problem of orphaned calves that remain on highway corridors after their cows are hit by vehicles. According to DOT, 50 percent of all collisions are calves because they remain on the highways until also hit by vehicles (verified independently by ADF&G). A proactive relocation program picks up the calves before an additional accident can happen, resulting in over ten times the orphaned calves available for relocation annually then Mr. Regelin suggests.
The Relocation Program is intended to be implemented when moose are healthy compared to the late winter when they are nutritionally stressed. Accordingly, ADF&G has been very careful and diligent in their protocol before allowing any relocation to take place late this winter. This program is going forward because it mimics a highly successful program performed from Utah to Colorado that has relocated moose, in the name of public safety, for over 30 years. AMF has built the internal capacity to handle as many moose as needed, but will correctly wait until ADF&G gives us the go-ahead.
As for the darting of moose, ADF&G performs darting on thousands of animals a year in Alaska, without incident. Bears are darted on an annual basis throughout Anchorage and moved out of town. The biologists that work for USDA Wildlife Services will be working directly with ADF&G biologists who are the professionals overseeing this program. AMF is in charge of transportation only.
The deep snow year of 2012 was the ideal winter to verify the success of AMF’s programs. On February 2nd, in a 24 hour period, AMF salvage trucks picked up 17 moose from Talkeetna to Eagle River without missing a call. The final mistruth is likely the hardest to swallow with Mr. Regelin’s accusation on lack of calf survival. Four calves were released under ADF&G oversight last summer. One calf did not survive, another calf had its collar fail (so there is no record of it) and the two remaining calves are still alive despite a winter with the deepest snow ever in a Southcentral Alaska.
Mr. Regelin’s unbelievably weak response to AMF’s successes in building capacity and actively implementing programs is unfortunate. It shows a complete lack of cognizance for the current agency science, policy, and leadership that has provided the guidelines for AMF to be so successful in its first year of funding.
• Olson is Executive Director of the Alaska Moose Federation and may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.