After 4 years of moose counts, biologists put a number on how many live in the Anchorage bowl

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 4:42 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage is unique for many reasons, but here’s one people may not have thought of. According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Dave Saalfeld, the city likely has one of the highest populations of moose and humans living together in the world.

Saalfeld was a head biologist on the annual Anchorage moose count, a pilot project that started in 2017 and ran through the next four years. The moose count relied on citizens to report moose sightings in the Anchorage bowl over a three-day period in late winter. Saalfeld said the study has given them a good idea of how many moose consider Anchorage their winter home.

“The estimate we got was around 300 moose with a range around 275 to 350,” Saalfeld said. “Which is a lot of moose in a small area.”

According to Saalfeld, that means there are about four moose per square mile in the bowl, at least in the wintertime.

Biologists didn’t just count moose for the study; they used dart guns to collect tiny tissue samples from the moose as well. Saalfeld said that allowed them to make sure they weren’t duplicating animals in the count.

Biologists found there were twice as many female moose as male. In Anchorage, a significant number were hit by cars.

“About 10% each year, of the moose we sample, turn up in road kills,” Saalfeld said.

One thing that surprised biologists, according to Saalfeld, is how little the moose moved from their favorite winter spots. It was common to find the same moose in the same area or even the same backyard from year to year.

But while biologists feel confident they have a handle on winter moose numbers, there are still big questions about the animals that call Anchorage home. Saalfeld said biologists don’t know how many moose live in Anchorage during the summer. They want to know if the animals stick around or head to less populated areas once the snow melts.

Saalfeld said the next phase of the study will look more specifically at how and where moose move in deep snow, although he said it isn’t likely they’ll conduct another count for at least a few more years.

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