Hunting Would Be Better Than . . .Moving Moose

Voice of the Times / Anchorage Daily News / May 11, 2004

We are left to wonder what in the blue blazes has happened to Alaska when the best way that can be found to deal with Anchorage's nuisance moose is to drug them with a dangerous narcotic and cart them away.

Instead of opting for the inexpensive, logical and traditional method of reducing the number of problem moose in an area -- dare we suggest hunting in these genteel days? -- the Legislature haggled over a measure that would allow authorized groups to drug and move some of our Bullwinkles. All that, mind you, under management of the Fish and Game Department, which has a transplant policy, but no money.

It sounds good when you hear it, but there are problems. It would be dangerous, to the moose and those involved in the tranquilizing, and it may be prohibitively expensive.

Wildlife officials say they are doubtful such a program would be successful. Among other considerations, moose are difficult to move and must be transported in a fashion that allows the huge critters to lie sternum-down. And they can be very, very cantankerous, a half-ton or so of cantankerous.

While the idea of hauling troublesome moose to areas of the state where they are not so plentiful must be appealing -- especially to those sick of confronting moose here and those desperate for moose there -- the stress of capture, transport and release likely would kill many of them. And there are questions about how many would survive in their new homes if they lived to get there.

The Anchorage Bowl is home to about 1,000 of the ungulates, each with the potential of becoming a very large problem to somebody. They have killed at least two Anchorage residents in past years and injured several others -- some seriously.

For the most part they are controlled by the amount of browse available and being smacked by vehicles. Hunting or outright culling should be an obvious option because it makes more sense than freighting stressed moose to the toolies, and is vastly more appealing than watching them starve or using Volvos and Saabs to curb their numbers.

Removing them, indeed, may be an answer, but we are not sure it is the answer.

All in all, if animals are a problem they should be dealt with humanely and quickly. Drugging them, stressing them out of their minds, hauling them off -- presumably by an aircraft of some sort -- and depositing them in parts unknown does not seem to us a good way to deal with the problem.

While we are sure proponents of the plan have the best intentions, it seems an unnecessary risk for moose, and the people that would be involved, for the good it would do.

Instead, the best options seem to be a hunting season of some sort, culling problem moose as necessary or buying better car insurance. If it were up to us, a hunting we would go.

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