Anchorage man pulls struggling moose from lake

A man said he helped lead a group rescue of a moose that got stuck in a frozen lake in Alaska. (Source: KTUU)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 5:52 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Wil Graves was walking by University Lake Tuesday night with his dogs when he first heard the commotion.

“I was talking on the phone with my friend in Oregon, and I heard a splashing and I said, ‘Tracy, there’s something going on over there,’ and I said ‘that’s a moose and he’s drowning so I’ve gotta hang up,’” Graves recounted.

Graves heard a moose that had fallen through the ice and was stuck. The large animal had created a large hole where the ice was broken as he was trying to get out, but was unsuccessful. Graves said he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Graves, a pharmacist at the nearby Alaska Native Medical Center, said he proceeded to call 911 dispatch, where he was then transferred to the state Department of Fish and Game. Cory Stantorf, an assistant area biologist for Fish and Game in Anchorage, said the department always advises the public to avoid encounters with wildlife, even if it means abandoning a helpless animal.

“We understand that that pulls on the heartstrings, and there’s a lot of emotion behind it, but we really recommend that people reach out to Alaska Wildlife troopers or the closest Fish and Game office,” Stantorf said.

In this case, Graves says the department also said it couldn’t do anything to help. He was told he needed to let nature take its course, which he found upsetting.

At this point, Graves believed the animal was going to die and there was no way for it to get out. Graves said the moose appeared exhausted and couldn’t fight anymore.

“I’m like, well, not going to do that, so give me a ticket if you want, but I’m at least going to give it a shot to help it out,” Graves said.

He said it would be hard for him to walk away or see it drown. Other people in the area wanted to do something but just didn’t know what to do.

“You can’t just watch something or somebody suffer and just walk by, even though you know I was expected to,” Graves said.

He then gathered a team and a rope.

“We got it around the antlers and started pulling, and then one of the antlers broke off because this time of the year they break off anyway, but we were able to — all of us — start pulling at the same time, and we got a little bit at a time, and during that time, Fish and Game actually called me and I was on the phone and pulling with one hand, and they said don’t touch the moose, and I said, too late,” Graves said.

As soon as the moose was out of the lake, Graves says it was lying on its side on the ice, and seemed to be suffering from hypothermia. Graves said he ran home to get a tarp and blanket, but upon his return, the moose seemed to be doing better.

Fish and Game ended up coming out to check on the moose, but by the time biologists got there, the moose was up and walking.

“We appreciate that people care about our wildlife in our town, we just don’t want them taking unnecessary risks where they might get hurt,” Stantorf said.

Graves said there were multiple good Samaritans that helped with the rescue, including an older woman who left her coat on top of the moose.

“You know, for me to walk away or just watch it drown, I’m not going to do that,” Graves said. “I’m going to do something to help it out. Just give it a chance, I mean, that moose could go off and get eaten by wolves or hit by a car, but at least it’s not going to die that way.”

Graves says whether the moose survives or not, it at least has a better chance now.

Fish and Game recommends the public reach out to Alaska Wildlife Troopers, or contact the closest Fish and Game office, if they come across a situation involving wild animals.