Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, February 16, 2012



For the 99% of Americans who live in what Alaskans call the "Lower Forty-Eight," this has been one mild winter.  And...no...it's not just your imagination.  Last month was the fourth warmest January in the 48 contiguous states since meteorologists began keeping records, back in the early 1800's.  Just how hot is it?  It hit 60 degrees (16C) in New York City.   Usually frigid Minneapolis clocked in at 48 degrees (9C).  How about this? This year, the SUPER BOWL (America's most treasured event) was held in Indianapolis...inside a heated, domed stadium.  But, it was warm enough in Indiana on February Fifth to play football outside.  Anyhow...you get the picture...it's been a unseasonably warm winter in the USA.

However...things couldn't be more different in Alaska.  So far in Anchorage, 112 inches of snow has fallen this season...more than double the average.   While Alaskans are used to snow, (Duh!) these record amounts are creating some unique problems...particularly with Alaska's huge moose population.  See, moose hate walking in the snow.  They have very long, wobbly legs and it just doesn't work out very well.  So, to avoid the dreaded snowbanks...and save valuable winter calories...moose seek out any and every clearing. Unfortunately, the only places cleared of snow in Alaska this winter are highways, roads, railway tracks and parking lots.  The clumsy beasts simply can't move fast enough and are being struck and killed at alarming rates.

Just how bad is it?  The Alaska Moose Federation (AMF) wants a state of emergency declared in Mat-Su Borough (Alaska doesn't have counties), home to one of the densest moose populations on earth.   Here, 269 moose have died this year as a direct result of human / moose accidents.  This number even eclipsed 1994...the worst winter in 100 years!  Anyhow, the AMF has been busy.  They've cleared 25 feet on either side of the railways tracks and 15 feet on each side of the highways.  They've also creared 50 miles of moose specific trails. "It really, really works," AMF head Gary Olson said. "The next day after we take a Sno-Cat through there, the trail's covered with moose tracks!"

It's not just the moose who are suffering...humans are feeling the pain too!  It's estimated people living in the Mat-Su Borough will cough up $10 million dollars this winter in moose related expenses.  The AMF estimates each human/moose incident winds up costing an average of $35,000 in total costs.  This includes not only the body shop, but injuries, loss of work, animal services, emergency vehicles, etc.  ERs note that bodily harm in car accidents is much worse in 2012 than back in 1994.  This is attributed to the current surge in smaller, more energy efficient cars, that don't protect as well as the steel Chevy Impalas of days past.  Joanna Reed at Alaska Highway Safety Office say there's one way not to become part of a moose-related collision statistic this winter: "Assume all moose have a self-destructive streak.  Assume it's going to throw itself in front of you."

This could be your porch, Sarah Palin!
The good news for both moose and humans in Alaska is that the worst of the winter is over.  The Spring Equinox is March Twentieth this year...a mere month away!  And, as much as we'd like to blame humans and our dreaded "civilization" for the spike in moose deaths...we do have to share some of the anger with Mother Nature.  Sometimes 'Acts of God' occur and innocent animals die.  Finally...we here at the DUNER BLOG were happy to learn that the gigantic moose carcasses aren't going to waste.  They are taken to prisons where they are butchered by inmates.  Then, the moose meat is then taken to local food banks.  SARAH PALIN...are you reading??? We're seeing a great 'photo-op' here!!! 


Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/01/23/1995702/deep-snow-may-lead-to-record-moose.html#storylink=cpy

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