Moose rescued after falling into river

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2011

FAIRBANKS — A moose that fell through the ice into a river was rescued by a group of people who hauled it out of the water using a rope tied around the animal’s neck.

Snowmachiners and Fairbanks area residents rescued the moose from the Chena River on Sunday, just upstream of the Steese Highway bridge, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Photographer Ronn Murray was part of the group, and he said it looked like the moose was just about to give up when it got a leg on the ice and rescuers were able to tug it free.

“We were all kind of disheartened, and then the moose gave it a last try,” Murray said.

The moose immediately trotted off and started eating nearby twigs on trees, Murray said.

“I was pleasantly surprised we were able to get him out,” he said.

But state wildlife officials said they do not recommend attempting such a rescue because of safety concerns, and the moose may die from stress.

“I hope that moose survived, and those people did a good thing for it, and I’m glad nobody got hurt, but we don’t recommend it,” said wildlife biologist Tom Seaton with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game in Fairbanks.

Seaton said that when the moose immediately starting feeding after it was pulled out of the water, it was displaying a common sign of major stress called “displacement behavior.”

The section of the Chena River upstream of the Steese Highway bridge is notorious for thin ice, and the game department has for years fielded calls about moose in the water, Seaton said.

“Most of the moose we’ve followed up on after getting out of the water have died,” he said.

Lt. Lantz Dahlke, who heads the Fairbanks detachment of Alaska Wildlife Troopers, warned that an animal’s behavior can be unpredictable.

“What happens if you get them out and the moose gets frantic?” Dahlke said. “You just don’t know what an animal is going to do.”

Murray said he didn’t know any of the other people involved in the rescue, and they went on their way after congratulating each other — including a man who used a ski pole to get the rope over the moose’s head.

“I wish I had gotten the names of the people involved, especially the guy who lassoed him,” Murray said. “He was kind of the hero.”

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