State game officials are pondering establishing a moose hunt on the Anchorage hillside

Posted: Monday, February 07, 2005

ANCHORAGE - State game officials are considering holding a moose hunt in the Hillside area above Anchorage.

However, the proposed hunt in Chugach State Park faces hurdles in a city where many residents don't see moose as a nuisance. The Alaska Board of Game is expected to consider the proposal in March.

State biologist Rick Sinnott says he would rather see a few moose shot than have them starve or struck by cars.

"It just seems a shame to have them starving to death," he said.

But the proposed hunt faces hurdles in a city where many residents don't see moose as a nuisance. Some residents still have negative memories of the last hunt in 1983, where television cameras caught images of moose walking around with arrows in their rumps.

If the plan passes the game board, it still would require approval from park officials, who have rejected similar hunts in the past.

The last time there was a Hillside hunt was more than 20 years ago when the city's ballooning human population bumped up against its longtime moose residents.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game proposed to trim the Hillside population by offering a November bow-and-arrow hunt in the Campbell and Rabbit creek drainages. The goal was to remove three dozen bulls, cows or calves.

The argument then was the same as it is now - to let hunters rather than drivers trim the herd.

Afterward, department biologists said the two-day hunt had gone "relatively well," but public opinion was more negative. Landowners groused about trespassing hunters shooting moose in their yards. One man found a gut pile 20 feet from his car and a mile from the hunt area. Television news reports showed wounded moose limping around with arrows in their flanks.

Largely because of the bad publicity, the hunt was never repeated.

The moose situation has changed little since then, Sinnott said. The Anchorage Bowl's winter population varies from 700 to 1,000, depending mostly on how many moose died the previous winter because of starvation or car collisions.

Hunts on Fort Richardson, Elmendorf Air Force Base and upper Ship Creek drainage have hardly dented the population. Last fall, hunters took only 51. Cars killed at least 188. Another dozen or so were killed by trains.

Sinnott believes more than 200 starved to death in the Anchorage Bowl, dozens of which ended up in people's yards.

Sinnott considers all those deaths a waste.

"From my perspective, why would you want moose to starve to death when you could have hunters harvest them," he said.

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