Alaska experiments with new moose counting method

Employees of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service at the Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage must use caution during the long winter months. Moose often times are found bedded down near the parking lot or browsing on birch trees. (U.S Fish and Wildlife Service)
Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game is trying out a new way to count moose within Anchorage city limits.

Dave Saalfeld is a research biologist, and will be coordinating teams across Anchorage this Sunday and Monday as citizens tell them where they’re seeing moose.

“We’re testing this technique out,” Saalfeld said. “This is what we call a pilot study, so we’re working all the kinks this year.”

In most of the state, moose are counted by flying small planes at low-altitude in a grid, and tallying what is seen. Saalfeld said the new method aims to be an alternative to traditional means of moose assessment. Low snow the last three winters and abundant flight restrictions over Anchorage airspace have made aerial surveys difficult.

New locating technique

This year, researchers are hoping to crowd-source reports on where the municipality’s massive ungulates are at a given point in time. Fish and Game will then send staffers to tag the moose with darts that are designed to snag a tissue sample for DNA testing.

“One aspect of this study, getting a genetic sample, we’ll start learning are these moose actually staying in Anchorage?” Saalfeld said. “Are they moving out to the hunt areas? ‘Do we have an urban moose population?’ is one of the questions that could potentially be answered by this study as we get down the road.”

Residents wanting to help with the survey should keep their eyes peeled this Sunday and Monday. Saafeld said there are three ways to for residents who wish to report seeing a moose in city limits. They can report it online to area biologists. Residents can also call (907) 267-2253, or they can text (907) 782-5051).

Related stories from around the North:

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Sweden: Road accidents involving wild animals hit record high in Sweden, Radio Sweden

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Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media

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