The Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area had an unlikely visitor this week: a young bull moose has been spotted at the heavily-trafficked landmark since Wednesday.
Visitors and U.S. Forest Service staff first spotted the moose on the Moraine Ecology Trail next to the visitor center Wednesday. It was spotted throughout the afternoon Thursday and Friday morning.
It’s the first moose the area has seen in at least four or five years, said Laurie Lamm, the visitor center's assistant director for sustainable operations. “It’s not very typical at all,” Lamm said.
On Friday morning, Lamm spotted the moose swimming across Mendenhall Lake en route to a rock peninsula next to the glacier, with two kayakers trailing. Getting too close can be extremely dangerous and add to the moose’s stress, Lamm said. She cautioned visitors to give the animal a wide berth.
“I know that people are always excited when there’s something new in the area,” Lamm said, but visitors should “maintain common sense” and give the moose plenty of space.
Historically, moose don’t live in the Juneau area, which doesn’t have the geography or food sources they favor. Moose are typically found munching on low shrubs in large river valleys, neither of which Juneau has in abundance, Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist Ryan Scott said.
“Generally speaking, Juneau proper, we just don’t have the habitat to support them. There are little places they can make a living, but by and large … they don’t have what they need,” Scott said.
In the past four or five years, at least a few moose have been able to carve out a living in Juneau. Fish & Game has seen photographic evidence of a group of five moose living in the Cowee Creek area. This group has been spotted with young — called calves — which Scott said indicates they’ve been able to mate in the area.
Fish & Game can’t be sure where the moose came from, but it may have come from a nearby herd in Berners Bay, which numbers over 100 animals. Though Scott said they have no idea why — or how — the moose arrived at the glacier, it’s not uncommon for a young bull to strike out on its own.
“It’s not overly surprising that a young male would disperse and find a new place to hang out,” Scott said. “I don’t think it’s a migratory process in that it intentionally came to the Juneau area and then intends to go back to wherever it came from. I suspect this young bull is moving around.”
Bull moose hunting season opened in the Juneau area on Friday, but the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area is far from an open hunting area. Visit adfg.alaska.gov for bull moose hunting regulations.
The visitor center has put up signs warning visitors to the recreation area to steer clear of the moose while hiking, biking and walking in the area. Moose are considered dangerous and a threat to stomp dogs or charge humans.