Eagle River back yard doubles as a moose maternity ward

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 21:25
ADFG urges caution around ‘defensive’ moose
A mother moose and her two newborn calves rest in the Douthit family’s yard in Eagle River recently. Carol Douthit said the young family appeard in her back yard shortly after the babies were born nearby on May 20. Douthit said the mama moose used the yard as a nursery for about a week before letting the calves venture farther afield. As of Monday, May 28, Douthit reported all three moose were browsing on a utility easement near her home.

A moose mother found Eagle River’s Sanctuary Drive to be just that recently when she used a family’s back yard there as a sanctuary for her two newborn calves.

Carol Douthit said her family hosted the moose for week before the mama eventually allowed them to leave the relative safety of the Douthit’s fenced-in back yard.

“They were here from Sunday to Sunday,” Douthit said in an interview Monday, May 28.

Douthit said the moose were born in a nearby yard on May 20, and the mother quickly took residence behind the house her family has lived in for 10 years.

There are lots of moose babies in the area this time of year, said Jessy Coltrane, an area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“This is probably the peak calving from the 20th to the 25th,” Coltrane said.

When the mother moose and her two calves arrived in the Douthit’s yard, Carol said she knew enough about moose behavior to leave them be.

“We just stayed away,” she said.

Douthit said that meant she kept her dogs indoors and took them on leashes out front while the moose were bedding down out back. From time to time, she said, the mama moose would leave the babies alone.

“It was almost like we were babysitting,” she said.

Coltrane said it’s important to remember that just because baby moose are alone, doesn’t mean they’re abandoned.

“Very often cows will leave calves in a place like a yard where they feel they’re safe and then go off and browse,” she said. “If you don’t see a cow around it doesn’t mean she’s gone for good.”

Coltrne said moose with calves should be given an especially wide berth this time of year.

“Cows are very defensive so it’s a relatively dangerous time of year,” she said. “Don’t get too close.”

Coltrane warned that bears are also keenly interested in moose calves this time of year. She urged anyone who has a bear kill a moose in their yard to call Fish and Game at 267-2257 immediately.

“We’ll come and take care of it for you,” she said.

Douthit reported that the moose that used her yard for a week had moved onto a nearby utility easement, where the youngsters appeared to be getting their legs under them.

“They were really fun to have out there,” she said.

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