Deer Company

Moose travels the city with unlikely pal

Doug O'Harra / Anchorage Daily News / November 12, 2003

A Sitka blacktailed deer, perhaps a little lonely, wandered through a South Anchorage yard in the company of a moose this week, its image captured on video.

This marks the second fall in a row that a nimble browser common in Prince William Sound has been confirmed inside Anchorage proper.

This time, a little buck was seen escorting a much larger moose -- a cousin in the deer family -- just outside a home off O'Malley Road. Even stranger, the unlikely pair seemed to be enjoying each other's company, resident Kandy Schroeder said.

"They were definitely pals," she said. "It wasn't just that the deer was following the moose, because the moose followed the deer when it left."

Schroeder's 4-year-old daughter, Megan, even had a name for it, she added. "She decided that she would name it 'Bambi.' "

On Tuesday, a deer -- possibly the same animal -- appeared less than a mile farther north. It was seen bounding through the empty playground at Spring Hill Elementary School by teachers and staff working while children took off Veterans Day. Motorists also reported seeing a deer off Lake Otis Parkway near Hanshew Middle School.

"It was cool. We were all very excited," said Lynne Lepley, Spring Hill administrative assistant. "It would have caused major chaos if the kids were here."

The first reported sighting came about 10 a.m. Monday, when Schroeder saw the moose with a smaller brown animal in a clearing and assumed it was a cow and calf. Then the two animals got spooked by traffic on O'Malley and moved toward the house.

"The closer it got, and I saw it (better), I thought, 'Oh my god, it's a deer!' " Schroeder said. "I was so shocked. I called Fish and Game right away."

One biologist, she said, was amazed that the two species were hanging together. Another was skeptical at first about Schroeder's report.

"The biologist says, 'Are you sure it's not a baby moose?' and I'm like, 'Hello?' "

Schroeder grew up on a Hiland Road homestead and went moose hunting last month off the Tanana River near Nenana with her husband and brother.

"I know my moose," she said. "I was born and raised here, and I just witnessed a hit-and-run the night before with a calf off O'Malley and Lake Otis and called 911."

The deer was no escapee from the small herd at the Alaska Zoo, located only about a mile farther east, office manager Virginia Wolfe said. "Ours are all present and accounted for."

That means the animal was almost certainly another migrant from the coastal rain forest and fjords in the Sound, said Rick Sinnott, Anchorage area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Last fall and winter, several people reported seeing deer near Potter Marsh and Turnagain Arm, including the first sighting ever inside the Bowl. At the time, biologists speculated that mild weather and shallow snow cover allowed the animals to wander across the mountains.

"This could be one of the ones from last year," Sinnott said. "And it's possible that another deer came over the pass and walked all the way to Anchorage."

Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra can be reached at do'


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