Moose pose danger on campus
Moose have been sighted near buildings on lower campus several times recently, due to recent heavy snowfall. Officials recommend that students and community members at UAF exercise caution around these animals in order to remain safe.
“There is nothing wrong with wanting to view moose,” Mike Taras, a wildlife educator with the state Department of Fish and Game, said. “But, I have seen people unaware of the dangers that moose can pose. People think that they can just go right up to the animal and that’s very risky.”
“The more snow we have, the more dangerous the situation is,” Taras said.
Deep snow makes it harder for moose to walk and forage for food, draining the energy reserves they built over the summer and making them belligerent. Cleared roads and trails, like the ones of campus, offer easier movement for the animals that they may be reluctant to leave. Taras says moose are more likely to be agitated near humans, and may charge or attack if further distressed.
The number one rule of moose safety is to keep a safe distance, far enough away to take cover if the animal charges. Taras suggests a general ‘rule of thumb’ for estimating distance from a moose.
“Hold your hand at arm’s length away from you [with your hand in a thumbs-up position],” Taras said. “If you can cover that animal with your thumb, then that’s a safe distance.”
Students are advised to be aware of their surroundings on campus, especially in the woods or on trails. If a moose is sighted, it should be avoided it if at all possible. If impossible to avoid, watch for signs of stress that may spur the animal to charge. An agitated moose will have its ears back, hair raised on the back of its neck, and will stare down its aggressor. Moose in this state may attack if approached, frightened, or pestered with rocks or snowballs. Female animals with calves are especially easy to stress. Unlike bears, getting a head start and running away from moose is advised.
If there is a moose seen on campus in a high-traffic area, call the UAF police at (907) 474-7721. Provide the dispatcher with as much information as possible about the location and temperament of the animal so officers can investigate. If the animal appears to be eating or bedding down the area is blocked off. Traffic is directed around the moose, and emergency emails and text messages are sent to students and faculty.
“[UAFPD] does not forcibly remove moose from campus unless they are in high traffic areas and have the potential to injure others or themselves,” Chief Steve Goetz said.
For more information on moose safety, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website on living in moose country.