FAIRBANKS - Hundreds of moose are killed by cars and trucks each year on roads in Alaska's Interior.
Most end up in the freezers of hungry families, thanks to local charities on call 24 hours a day. The charities send out volunteers any time of day or night to butcher the road-killed moose.
But a few end up in the hands of thieves who steal them before charities arrive on scene.
"We've had moose get hit, we call a charity and someone comes along and steals it before (the charity) gets there," said Fish and Wildlife Protection Trooper James Burton.
"We try to stay with the moose until someone gets there but we can't baby-sit a dead moose forever," Burton said.
Any big game animal killed or injured by a vehicle becomes property of the state, Burton said. A person removing it without permission could be charged with taking a moose by unlawful methods and means, possession of meat of an animal out of season and theft.
Last year, about 200 moose were reported killed on Interior roadways. Most of the time the person who hits the moose calls troopers, remains at the scene under an officer arrives and fills out an accident report, said Burton.
Troopers keep a list of charities that salvage road-killed moose and call until one responds, which can take an hour or two - or more - depending where the moose was hit.
While some reported roadkills are stolen, others are taken by the people who hit them, Burton said. Calves are especially vulnerable to being carted off because they are smaller and don't do as much damage to vehicles as adult moose, reducing the need to report the accident for insurance purposes. In addition, it's easier to heft a 300- or 400-pound calf into the back of a pickup truck than it is an adult moose.
"A couple of big guys can get out, heave it into a truck and they're gone," Burton said.
That's what Burton suspects may have happened to a partially salvaged calf moose found on the side of a road in the Goldstream Valley last month. A resident saw the moose and notified Fish and Wildlife Protection troopers.
"There's indications it may have been hit by a vehicle and then shot and salvaged," said Burton, the investigating officer. Both hindquarters, one front quarter and the backstrap were taken off but the neck meat, ribs and one front quarter were not salvaged. It appears the moose was butchered somewhere else, Burton said.
"There wasn't evidence that it had died there," the trooper said.
Troopers retrieved a bullet from the moose's skull for evidence and were looking for a pickup pulling a snowmachine trailer that was seen in the area.
The remains of the moose carcass was donated to the Alaska Trappers Association for bait, Burton said.