Alaska moose relocation program gets $1.5 million

ANCHORAGE — A nonprofit group is receiving an additional $1.5 million in state funding for a program that plans to use the money to move moose away from cities.

The Alaska Moose Federation has already received $1.3 million in funding after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued it an unprecedented permit to set up hay feeding stations to keep moose away from roads and rail lines. Wildlife officials have said some of the feeding stations were used, but it’s difficult to quantify the program’s success.

The state also issued the group a permit to relocate up to 10 moose in south-central Alaska away from rail lines and roads this winter where the animals were vulnerable to being struck by vehicles. The moose were drawn to roads and rail lines because especially deep snow this winter made travel along established moose paths more difficult.

The additional state money allows the Alaska Moose Federation to expand its plans.

According to Thursday’s Anchorage Daily News , the group is gearing up to move hundreds of moose next winter, possibly flying drugged moose from urban roadsides to remote village areas where moose numbers are low.

Gary Olson, the group’s executive director, said the funding will be used to extend the program for up to five years. Next year, the federation hopes to move 100 moose.

Rick Sinnott, a retired Fish and Game area wildlife biologist who has criticized the federation’s activities in the past, said the moose plans are getting “crazier and crazier.”

“If Fish and Game were doing this, they’d be the laughingstock of the scientific world,” he said.

Olson said the federation didn’t move any moose this winter because of a problem scheduling training for federal technicians contracted to move the animals. A two-month permit to move the moose expired on March 31 before the technicians could be trained.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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