3 moose confirmed dead from chokecherry, yew

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011

ANCHORAGE — A popular ornamental flowering tree considered a nuisance for displacing native Anchorage plants now has another knock: It’s killing moose.

State wildlife officials have confirmed that three moose have died after eating buds, branches or berries from European bird cherry, known locally as Mayday trees or chokecherry. One moose also had consumed toxic levels of Japanese yew.

European bird cherry is a deciduous tree that grows 15 to 30 feet high and is prized by homeowners for blooms with fragrant white flowers in late spring or summer. It’s dark green leaves turn red in July. The fruit is a black cherry sought by birds, often attracting flocks of Bohemian waxwings after snow has covered other plants.

European bird cherry is dominant along many streams in Anchorage, and it can be toxic to animals with segmented stomachs. It’s danger to cattle is well-documented, said state wildlife veterinarian Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, and goats, deer and moose also are at risk.

When buds are chewed and swallowed, they react with chemicals in the rumen, the first division of the stomach. The chemical reaction releases cyanide gas that can kill a moose in 20 minutes, Beckmen said. But it all depends on when the moose browses on Mayday trees.

“They’re not toxic all the time,” she said. “The toxin builds up under certain weather conditions and growing conditions and fertilization. A chokecherry tree that moose feeds on in the summer, no problem whatsoever.”

In fall, when the first freeze hits, the toxin builds up and moose are susceptible.

Dogs get temporary home at Alaska prison farm

ANCHORAGE — Some dogs seized during a raid last month on a husky breeder have found a temporary home at an Alaska prison farm.

Five huskies arrived by truck Monday and are now fenced inside an apple orchard at the minimum-security Point MacKenzie Correctional Farm, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Some of the huskies are now available for adoption. Only a few will temporarily live at the farm.

The huskies belonged to Frank Rich, 53, who was charged with 50 counts of animal cruelty after troopers and shelter workers trucked nearly 160 the dogs from his home Jan. 10.

Rich has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges.

At least 22 dogs were found dead at the homestead, troopers said at the time.

“At this point we’re just moving forward, trying to find homes and places to put them,” said Mat-Su animal control manager Richard Stockdale.

As they grow healthier, Stockdale expects to move about 20 huskies to the prison farm where inmates tend to potatoes, vegetables and livestock.

Rabeau said there’s room for as many as 52 huskies, if needed.

They won’t be alone. Along with more than 120 inmates, the farm has cows, pigs, some 600 chickens — and three “prison dogs,” Sassy, Bear and Waylon.

The shelter dogs will eventually get names as the prison farm tries to make them easier to adopt, Rabeau said.

“We’re going to take them on walks, bring them indoors ... if they get over their shyness,” she said.

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