Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Urban moose may be moved to rural areas

ANCHORAGE - Moose considered a nuisance in Anchorage could get a free ride to rural areas under a bill moving through the Legislature.

Sponsored by Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, the bill would authorize state-approved groups to tranquilize and remove "nuisance moose" from urban yards, playgrounds and roadways and relocate them to the Bush.

None of the relocation details have been decided, but the concept has drawn support in many quarters, from Anchorage schools Superintendent Carol Comeau, who says she is concerned for the safety of students, to subsistence advocates, who would love to augment rural moose numbers with hearty urban transplants.

The moose bill has met some resistance. Biologists call it well-intentioned but expensive, potentially dangerous and probably ineffective. Wildlife advocates say Anchorage residents prefer peaceful coexistence with moose rather than their forced relocation.

"Most people don't consider moose to be a nuisance," said Defenders of Wildlife spokeswoman Karen Deatherage. "That's not the majority viewpoint in this city."

Haida ask Smithsonian for last of remains

PRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia - A First Nation group has gone to Washington, D.C., in hopes of bringing home the last of its ancestors.

The Haida Repatriation Committee will meet with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History to ask for the return of ancestral remains in the museum's possession.

The committee made the same request two years ago but was turned down.

"If they do agree, we will be done repatriating all the ancestral remains that we know of that are in museums around the world," said committee member Andy Wilson.

Archeologists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries believed looting graves was the right thing to do because aboriginal people, such as the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, were thought to be dying out.

The committee wrote 200 letters to museums to find out whether they were holding any remains.

Since then, the Haida have persuaded museums in New York and Oakland, Calif., as well as the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia to return Haida remains.

Most recently, officials at the University of Oregon agreed to return the Haida ancestral remains in their possession.

Gray whales return in annual spring migration

ANCHORAGE - The first wave of gray whales is cruising past the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island, launching Alaska's spring encounter with one of the world's most extraordinary marine migrations.

The grays are on the outbound leg of an annual 10,000-mile round trip between Mexico and the Bering Sea. People also have spied giant humpback and fin whales, blustering sea lion bulls and killer whales on the prowl, indications all around that Alaska's marine world has sprung to life.

A flotilla of 30-ton gray whales moving cape to cape along the rugged outer coast has been reported for the past several weeks.

"This is the time of year," said marine biologist Kate Wynne, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Marine Advisory Program on Kodiak.

Reaching 46 feet in length and weighing up to 33 tons, the animals are the only bottom-feeding whales, filtering invertebrates from muck through their yellow baleen.

On April 17, 50 gray whales were counted passing a few hundred yards off Narrow Cape on Kodiak's northeast tip, said Susan Payne, coordinator of the 10-day Whalefest on Kodiak. A steady stream swam by on April 18.

"I'd say right around now we're peaking," added Capt. Leslie Jacoby, the education coordinator for Kenai Fjord Tours in Seward.

Pacific gray whales winter in Mexican waters before traveling from Baja California to summer feeding grounds in the Chukchi and Bering seas.

Once listed as endangered, the species rebounded to about 25,000 before something triggered a die-off in the late 1990s. In 2002, the population was estimated to be 17,500 and slowly increasing.

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