Takers for dead moose found online

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ANCHORAGE - When a 300-pound yearling moose stumbled into Calvin Hay's Hillside yard and died this month, he called the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, expecting the carcass would get hauled away.

Instead, he found out he was on his own.

"I guess I assumed that they would come deal with it," he said. "I kind of joked around a little bit; I said, wait a minute, aren't you the guys that say moose are, like, natural resources and they belong to all of us, but now that it's dead, it belongs to me?"

Turns out that's about right. So Hay, 46, posted an ad for a "dead moose" on Craigslist, a classified ad Web site, becoming at least the second person to do so in Anchorage this spring.

"You could use it for dog food or stuff it and put it (in) your front yard, bear bait, whatever," says the ad. "If you live in the Lower 48, this might be your best opportunity to get a free Alaska moose. I don't really care; I just want it out of my yard."

Within minutes, the responses began flooding in, he said. He got at least 50, including one poster who offered to take just a quarter: "I want it. But I can only take a haunch. I got only a small knife and a bicycle."

When moose die and their meat is deemed inedible - often because the cause of death is unknown - they become the responsibility of whoever owns the land they end up on, said Rick Sinnott, the Anchorage-area wildlife biologist for Fish and Game. When they die on public land, the responsible agency takes care of removing the carcass. On private land, it's up to the owner.

Fish and Game gets about 20 calls each year from Anchorage residents who have had inedible moose die in their yards, he said. The department tries to find takers for the meat and usually succeeds.

"It's a real dilemma, and a moose is a big deal, but if a bird or a squirrel dies on your property, then people don't usually expect Fish and Game to pick it up, and it's the same idea," Sinnott said. "It's just bigger and stinkier."

Sharon Baker, 49, figured that out when, in April, she had the misfortune of having a yearling moose wander into her yard and waste away for a few days before dying on her front lawn in a cul-de-sac off Boniface Parkway.

Baker said she called Fish and Game about the dying calf and was told there was nothing the agency could do. She called back when the calf was dead and was told biologists were looking for a trapper who might want moose meat as bait. When she didn't hear back right away, she decided to pack the moose in snow, cover it with a tarp, and post an ad on Craigslist titled "dead moose needs removal."

"I just figured it would be a win-win. I wouldn't have to take it to the landfill, and someone else could utilize the moose. You know, it wouldn't have died in vain," she said. "Rick (Sinnott) wasn't that happy about it."

In the end, the department did line up a trapper to take the carcass, but by that time, Baker had given it away, Sinnott said.

There are often cases of moose dying in people's yards in the springtime after struggling to get through the winter, Sinnott said.

While it's understandable that people want to rid themselves of the carcasses, the trend of posting dead moose for removal on Craigslist is ill-advised, Sinnott said.

Moose that are incidentally killed - by a car, for instance - are given to charity organizations or people who sign up to get them, Sinnott said, and even a moose that is clipped by a car and later dies on someone's property could be salvageable.

But animals that die for reasons not immediately known - including starvation and disease - are considered unsafe to eat. One problem with distributing such a moose is that people who decide to eat the meat could get sick and the homeowner could be liable, Sinnott said.

The city's moose population fluctuates between as many as 1,000 in the winter and as few as 200 in the summer, according to Fish and Game. While neither Hay nor Baker asked for money, it would be illegal to sell the parts, and the temptation to sell a nice rack on the Internet could get others into trouble, he said.

Still, there's apparently a demand for dead moose in cyberspace. Hay, who posted his moose May 8, was "overwhelmed with the response," but he didn't find out about it until too late: The e-mails got stuck in his spam filter, and he wound up paying someone $180 to haul it off to the dump anyway.

As for Baker, about five people responded to her ad, and two men and a woman soon showed up to haul her moose away. They planned to butcher it and eat it, though it was unclear if they actually did, she said.

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