Juneau moose sightings on the rise in recent years

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Juneau area isn’t exactly a magnet for moose, but Alaska’s capital city has had an increase of sightings in the last few years.

Five sightings of moose have been reported this summer, the Juneau Empire reported. That number is par for the course for the last few years, according to wildlife biologist Ryan Scott with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. But appearances are up compared to five years ago.

“The last two or three years, we’ve had people see moose in random places out the road,” Scott said. “In Juneau, it’s still a random thing.”

Moose aren’t particularly prolific in the area, except for a few isolated herds nearby.

“Southeast Alaska is not a super moose-y habitat,” Scott said.

Kevin White, a state moose research biologist with Fish and Game, said that besides several naturally occurring herds, there is a transplant herd in Berners Bay. That’s about 30 miles northwest of Juneau. That herd began about five decades ago with a few calves brought in from the Wasilla area.

“It stands out like a sore thumb genetically,” White said. “It’s from a completely different genetic stock.”

The moose seen this summer in Juneau are most likely from the Berners Bay herd, he said. White said he believes this year’s sightings have been of the same family, consisting of a cow moose and twin calves. In the past few years, people have also seen a bull, cow and calf along Glacier Highway.

Fish and Game has tracked and research the Southeast Alaska moose population since 2006, according to White. The Berners Bay herd was depleted by 40 percent in the harsh winter of 2006, White said.

Researchers are monitoring the moose population and location through radio collars and global positioning trackers. White said about 25 moose are currently collared.

“Overall we’ve had 25 to 35 adult female moose radio collared per year since 2006,” he said. “Since 2010, the efforts of our research have been reduced, and we aren’t doing captures as frequently as we used to. We capture animals every two years.”

White said the monitoring effort will continue until the Berners Bay herd is stable again, probably for another two years.

Scott doesn’t believe moose will be moving into the city any time soon. But there potential areas that could sustain a group of moose, such as land being exposed as the Mendenhall Glacier melts.

“Who knows, maybe we’ll have some moose move out and colonize parts of Juneau,” Scott said.

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