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Beware of Moose on the Roads

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When your alarm keeps going off, you eventually get out of bed, make up some coffee, and walk out the door to some job. You send up a silent prayer that there won’t be much traffic, but when you listen to the morning report on traffic, you realize that fate is not going for you. There’s a tractor trailer that’s been overturned on the big road, and there’s a 15-car pileup on the other route that you normally go. Since you’re sure you don’t want to be late, you go for the back roads, and you take a chance. Right when you hit your brakes through, after you turn around the second curve, you just think this day is not your greatest day.

Your mind goes through all the options about what could be holding up all the cars, could it be a school bus that’s crashed somewhere? Maybe it was some moron that was driving at 20 mph underneath the speed limit. Since you’re in Alaska, there’s a giant deer holding up the road. It’s much bigger than a normal deer, and it’s 6.6 feet high, and it weighs over 1,600 pounds. Your reputation for being on time is being marred by a moose.

If you lived someplace like Los Angeles or London, then getting your commute interdicted by a huge hulking deer could be seen as exciting. In Alaska, however, where there’s four moose for every one person, and it’s common to see animal like this wandering the streets during the winter.

Even though some people are happy when moose in the state eat at their shrubbery or participate in their morning commute, other people have less enthusiasm. Cows, or female moose, are very protective of their young, also called their calves, and if they feel that they under threat, even if there’s no reason, they won’t stop from an attack. Adult bull moose can get extremely aggressive in mating season too, and they could decide to take out their anger on an irritating dog and its owner.

In one case, a cow assaulted a boy while he was just playing in his backyard. In another incident in the same year, there was a college student that got trampled on a university campus. While those kinds of attacks are rare, there are far more car crashes with moose. There are about 600 car crashes each year, and they cause about $9 million in damage. There was one hard winter, and there were almost 1,300 crashes that year.

It’s not necessary to be some kind of animal tracker expert to find a big moose. In point of fact, most of the time, moose will seek you out when winter time comes.

Why did the moose cross the road anyway?

Moose have been seen in Alaska for years, but it’s not because they like a cosmopolitan lifestyle or really crave human attention at all really – it’s just because they’re hungry. Moose do all kinds of things to satisfy their hunger. One of them is wandering into town and knocking over trashcans. Most moose just eat grasses, sedges, and tree limbs because they’re vegetarians, but when the Alaskan winters come around and dump tons of snow on their feast, then they have nowhere else to turn but town.

Moose can eat up to 40 pounds of wood in a day. However, when that wood gets covered up in snow, they might lose up to a pound of body weight every day that goes by. SO, they go into town, and it seems like the people have cleared the roads ahead of their entry. To further stir up matters, the Department of Transportation often destroys new tree growth along the roads, and that has the unintended result of causing new growth and getting the hungry moose attracted to them like a magnet.

Think about thousands of animals that weigh a half tone that are scouring through the woods and looking for a buffet of greens along the highways. Factor in the busy drivers that are messing about with their radio dials, and you might see how Anchorage, Alaska alone loses 120 moose each winter. Moose are just as unlucky around the rest of the state. There were 121 moose deaths in one area and 138 moose deaths in another. The whole state lost about 600 moose that year.

The effects of those deaths are staggering. Half of the moose killed with cars are cows, and almost half are calves. A cow will generally make 30 calves in her lifetime, and 50% of those calves are cows, so it’s like there are thousands of moose getting killed each year by cars when the number is far lower in reality.

A huge portion of the passengers and drivers that get involved in the moose-related crashes each year survive the crash. Unluckily, the cars and moose aren’t so lucky. Almost 75% of moose are killed in these attacks.

To cut down on the number of moose-car crashes each year, the Department of Transportation has put up fencing and lighting around the areas with the most incidents. The improvements have cut down on crashes by almost 90% in some areas, but certain parts of the road aren’t completely fenced off. Some roads are on the top ten list of moose-car issues each year.

To make the conditions better, the Department of Transportation has partnered with the Alaska Moose Foundation to enhance the habitat and set up diversionary trails to give the animals some more inviting territory that they can go explore instead of the highways. However, if you’re driving in Alaska, and until they put up all the fencing, you might want to slow down and keep your eyes on the road for antlers.