The Alaska Moose Federation expanded its moose salvage program to the Mat-Su area on Friday and almost immediately got its first call.
Volunteer Justin Anderson responded to a collision between a vehicle and a young cow, which had been lying in the intersection of Palmer-Fishhook and Snowgoose roads, at 7:45 a.m. Within minutes, he had hoisted the carcass off the road and was transporting it to a local charity.
Alaska's Moose Salvage Program was suspended more than a year ago due to lack of funding. Funding was restored through a grant from the state Legislature, and the program restarted in Anchorage on Jan. 1. As of Saturday, AMF had removed 10 moose from roads in the municipality.
"We're thrilled to have them helping out," said Anchorage Police Department spokesman Lt. Dave Parker. "It's reduced the time we have to spend with a moose carcass."
Alaska allows nonprofit organizations to butcher road-kill moose and use the meat for their programs. But having the organizations do the salvage work is often inefficient.
"It's not their fault," said Parker. "They're volunteers. They have to get everyone together, find the right equipment, get to the site and then they have to deal with cutting up a moose, which is not a small thing."
Many moose collisions occur at night, in bad weather, during cold snaps and slick conditions - the same circumstances that make driving hazardous in general.
"They butcher those darned things right beside the road," Parker said. "We have to be there with our lights flashing. That puts our officers at risk. If we have to go to another call, it puts the (volunteers) at risk because there are no lights."
Parker said that "in the best of situations," with knowledgeable people using the right tools, it can take at least two hours to remove an adult moose.
"On the other hand, these (the AMF) show up with a truck, scoop it all up and have it out of there in 10 or 15 minutes," he said. "It's a great program."
The whole moose is then delivered to the designated charity for off-road butchering.
Gary Olson, executive director of the AMF, said the group has two trucks on call in Anchorage and just added five in Mat-Su. They plan to have two trucks going in the Fairbanks area and another five going to the Kenai Peninsula.
Olson said the $700,000 grant is being used to buy the 14 ¾-ton Ford flatbeds. "We usually get them used for $10,000 to $15,000," he said.
The trucks require about $7,000 to be equipped with a winch, lights, studded tires and other upgrades, he said. The grant also pays for insurance, fuel, maintenance and other expenses.
The trucks are stationed in various locations and are on call 24 hours a day. Alaskans curious to see what they look like can inspect two that are parked at the Sportsman's Warehouse in Wasilla during the day.
Olson expects "business will be brisk" in the Valley. A statement from AMF noted that the Mat-Su expansion comes during one of the largest snowfall years in the last two decades. Heavy snow is often cited as a contributor to moose-car accidents when the moose find it easier to stroll along cleared roads than to push though deep drifts.
"The Mat-Su Borough average rate of moose/vehicle collisions is 270 a year," said the organization, citing the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, "a level already reached this year with half the season remaining."
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.