Moose calving season is upon us
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
It’s calving season for moose and Alaskans will soon be seeing moose calves in and around urban settings, rural areas and wild places. The Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) reminds people that unattended calves, in most cases, have a mother moose (cow) nearby who will soon return. It’s important that people leave these animals alone.
Every spring, the department receives calls to rescue “abandoned or orphaned” moose calves. The truth is that most of these calves have been left in the area intentionally by the cow and do not need to be rescued. “Cow moose commonly leave their calves in a place they feel is safe while they go off to feed, water and even rest,” said Region II Management Coordinator Gino Del Frate. “The cow doesn’t necessarily stay with the calf at all times of the day, especially when calves are very young.”
Wildlife managers appreciate that people want to help, but in most cases human intervention will disrupt the calf-cow bond and may result in a poor outcome for the calf. Moose calves do best when raised by their mothers. The department urges anyone who sees a moose calf to leave it alone, and if they have questions, contact the nearest department office.
Only the Department of Fish and Game has legal authority to designate moose calves or other wildlife as orphans and to take them into captivity. “Since 2009 our policy has been to keep all orphaned calves alive as long as we have a qualified and permitted facility willing to take them,” said State Wildlife Biologist Tom Schumacher. “We commonly place orphaned calves with zoos both in Alaska and in the Lower 48 and occasionally fill requests from research institutions.”
In 2011, ADF&G first permitted the Alaska Moose Federation (AMF) to rear orphaned calves placed in their care by the department. The goal of this program is to rear and release calves back to the wild under comprehensive department guidelines and oversight. Last month the department again permitted AMF to rear orphaned calves. AMF has constructed a calf rearing facility approved by the department and has contracted two veterinarians to oversee the calves. AMF is not authorized to capture moose at this time.
Calves reared by AMF will be held until normal weaning time in late July or early August when they will be released in suitable areas in Southcentral Alaska. To ensure diseases and parasites are not spread to wild populations, each calf will undergo a series of tests supervised by the department’s wildlife veterinarian prior to release. Each calf will also be marked with ear tags and fitted with a radiocollar. To evaluate the effectiveness of this program, AMF will monitor movements and survival of released calves through May 2013 and submit a report to the Department.
The department retains the authority for wildlife and ADF&G staff will make the determination on which calves will be caught and delivered to AMF. As well as being potentially dangerous, it is illegal for anyone to capture and/or possess wildlife, including moose, without a permit issued by the department. The public is encouraged to call their local ADF&G office (from Seward call 907-267-2153) if they have questions about wildlife or an animal that appears to be orphaned. They are also advised to contact Fish and Game before making any attempt to disturb moose calves or other baby animals that may be found or encountered during this time of the year.