Moose getting testy in Fairbanks

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

FAIRBANKS - After being chased by dogs, dodging traffic and eating frozen wood all winter, moose in Fairbanks are start getting a little testy.

"They're getting ornery," said Tony Hollis, a technician at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks who handles moose calls for the agency. "They're low on (fat) reserves and the food they're eating is not very good."

Fish and Game is getting calls almost daily about moose - many of them showing signs of aggression - in neighborhoods or near schools, Hollis said.

In the past few days, Hollis has taken calls about hostile moose near two elementary schools .

"We've had kids and adults chased," Hollis said. While there have been no injuries reported as a result of moose encounters in Fairbanks this winter, the potential always exists.

A contrary moose parked near the entrance of a building Wednesday morning prompted University of Alaska Fairbanks police to issue a "moose alert" on campus, warning students and faculty to keep an eye out for unruly ungulates.

"We get worried because a lot of people are walking in those common areas," police chief Terry Vrabec said. "We want them to pay attention so they don't get charged."

Vrabec's fear is a very real one. A 71-year-old man was stomped to death on campus at the University of Alaska Anchorage in January of 1995 by a cow protecting her calf. That moose was shot four days later.

Vrabec can't remember the last time an aggressive moose was killed on campus, but police resort to all kinds of techniques to herd them off school grounds, including pepper spray, sirens and lights and bean bags fired from shotguns.

"We'd much rather move it on than dispatch a moose," he said.

On Wednesday, officers used pepper spray to chase off a cow that showed up about 8 a.m. to munch on a tree at UAF.

"She was kind of mad," Vrabec said. "She was close to charging some officers."

Moose pose an especially dangerous threat on campus because they often find themselves backed into a corner by all the buildings, he said.

Fish and Game's Hollis advises people to stay as far as possible from moose and to remove any attractions that may be bringing moose in, such as hay or salt on a driveway.

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