Hikers, bikers, dog walkers and others stepping outside to enjoy springtime in Alaska are urged to keep a wary eye out for wildlife babies — particularly newborn moose calves and bear cubs — and the protective, sometimes aggressive mothers that watch over them.
May and early June is calving season for moose and prime time for encounters with cow moose intent on keeping people and pets away from their calves. In Anchorage, for instance, several attacks by moose defending calves were reported last spring.
Certainly Southeast Alaska does not have an urban abundance of moose, but these large ungulates do live in the SE region and just this week a cow moose was spotted north of Juneau.
“This is probably the most dangerous time of year to be around moose,” Anchorage biologist Jessy Coltrane said. “If you’re walking through a wooded area, you need to be extra vigilant.”
In Juneau, it’s the brown and black bear sows that residents should be cautious of. They are equally protective of their young and, like moose, may be encountered around urban greenbelts, bike trails and neighborhoods as well as in wilder settings.
If a bear cub is encountered without its mother immediately in view, be alert because you may have walked between them. The best course of action is usually to turn and leave from the direction you came.
Do not assume young animals found alone are orphaned. Often the mother is nearby and will return once people leave. Mother bears and moose often walk out of sight from their young. Cow moose may become separated from calves by fences or roads, but usually find each other again, while sow black bears often send cubs up trees to wait before leaving to find food.
Even when young animals truly are orphaned, the best policy is to leave them alone. Do not attempt to feed or pick them up; unless you have a permit, this type of contact with animals is illegal and may result in a fine.
If you observe a young animal left alone for an extended period of time, or if you believe there is a safety concern, call the nearest ADF&G office. For more information, visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=distressedwildlife.mammals.