‘It worked out for the best’: Man helps moose calf over guardrail on Kenai Peninsula

Channel 2 Morning Edition (6 a.m.)
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A recent post on social media is picking up a lot of traction this week, where a man is seen helping a baby moose get over a guardrail near Clam Gulch on the Kenai Peninsula.

The calf and the man who helped it are OK now, but Joe Tate said he knows the situation could have gone differently.

Tate said he was driving back home on Sunday after fishing with friends in Ninilchik, as they do almost every weekend. Suddenly, he saw a line of cars and a moose in the road.

He said he looked closer and saw the mother moose pacing in the road — then he saw the calf. They watched it try to get over the rail back to its mother for about 30 minutes he said.

“It was tired,” Tate said. “It was very very young. Maybe a week and a half old.”

He said he thought about calling the Department of Fish and Game or the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, but he was worried that either one of the moose, a person, or a car would get hit in the amount of time it would take for them to arrive.

Tate said traffic had backed up for about a mile in either direction by the time he did something about it.

“As we got closer, we started to see traffic whether they were out of staters or locals going around,” he said, “Well they were going around it a little bit faster speed than you want.”

He said he and his friends hatched a plan to try and help without getting stomped.

Tate said his friends driving the trailer got in between the mother and the calf, breaking the line of sight. Another car followed their lead on the opposite side of traffic.

That’s when Tate hopped over the guardrail and the exhausted calf went up to him. He said he didn’t have to chase it.

He said he picked it up and put it over the guardrail. He helped it steady its new hooves on the pavement, but other than that he said he left immediately and let it return to its mother on its own.

Tate said the mother didn’t reject the calf despite it having contact with him.

“It was calculated,” Tate said. “It was something we kind of looked at and talked about before we did it. It worked out for the best. And it could have gone bad and I understand and know that. But it did go for the best, and it was worth the risk that I took.”

Fish and Game Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle said it was a huge risk, and people should do everything they can to avoid handling wildlife like this.

Tate isn’t your average Joe. He’s been in Alaska since 2005, when the military brought him here. So he’s heard many stories about what mother moose do to people when their babies are messed with.

He went through several tours before returning to Alaska. He’s had jobs on the slopes, and nowadays he works as an auto-service mechanic in Anchorage.

He has a resume for this kind of situation as well. Tate is an avid outdoorsman and said he’s a registered hunting guide.

“Nowhere near expertise,” he said. “But I had some knowledge of what to do and what not to do, and handled it the best it could be done.”

“Well the fact that he is an experienced outdoorsman and a guide probably helped him not get stomped,” Battle said when he learned about Tate’s background.

Still, what Tate did is technically illegal. Alaska Wildlife Troopers Lt. Chris Jaime said handling or “possessing” wildlife is a punishable misdemeanor offense.

Still, AWT or Fish and Game have a hard time knocking a good Samaritan situation like this one in particular.

“We’re not gonna track this guy down and issue him a citation for doing this,” Jaime said.

Even though it worked out here, handling wildlife is strongly not encouraged in Alaska. Tate admits it could have gone badly, but he felt confident in his skills and it worked out.

Officials ask people not to be inspired to try and do the same kind of thing in these situations.

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