Two moose calves orphaned near the Denali National Park and Preserve’s visitor center Thursday, when a visitor shot a charging cow moose, have not yet been found according to park staff.
Park spokesperson Kris Fister says several park personnel, including two rangers and two biologists, were involved a search for the calves that continued until 1 a.m. Wednesday. The search is still active, but is being balanced against other concerns as the park enters its busy summer season, with two incidents of cow moose near visitors reported Tuesday.
“Staff, unfortunately, have other duties -- including routing out visitors from interacting with any other moose,” Fister said.
The initial shooting of the cow moose took place at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, when 26-year-old Eagle River resident Thomas Sirvid told rangers he and four other people -- including two young children -- had been walking within a few hundred yards of the visitor center when they encountered the moose at close range.
The group hid behind a tree, but Sirvid shot the moose in the head when it continued to charge them, forcing rangers to kill the wounded animal. After considering the case, park rangers decided not to seek charges against Sirvid in the moose’s shooting.
According to Fister, the response to the moose shooting has been complicated because most of the park’s planning for orphaned moose calves involves incidents in remote areas of the park. While the park generally lets nature take its course in such incidents, Thursday’s moose death is being handled differently because it wasn’t naturally caused.
“We don’t have a protocol for this -- this is unprecedented for us,” Fister said. “Having that situation in our busiest area of the park, it’s a hazardous situation.”
Fister says the calves weren’t dependent on the cow for food so much as protection from predators, saying the situation leaves them “very vulnerable” to predators.
Two non-profit organizations which work with moose, the Alaska Moose Federation and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, have stepped forward and expressed an interest in taking the moose calves if they’re found. AWCC has indicated that it only needs male calves, however, which has led rangers to prioritize working with AMF since the calves’ gender hasn’t been determined.
“The Alaska Moose Federation indicated they’ll take them, and so we’re working with the more certain organization,” Fister said.
While visitors have reported sightings of the calves to the park’s communications center, which is staffed at all times, Fister says some reports of sightings have come in the day after they occurred. She encourages anybody who sees the calves to call the center at 907-683-9555 -- whenever they do so.
“The key is timely notification,” Fister said. “If they’re there and they’re seeing them, we need to know this.”
Channel 2’s Ashleigh Ebert contributed information to this story.
Contact Chris Klint