It was a gripping photo in the Anchorage Daily News Thursday. A splendid bull moose with a spectacular rack is standing just feet from a Kincaid Park trail with two people only a few yards away. I could only surmise that the person who had the wherewithal to snap the photo was also shouting at the moose and the people to alert both. Not only was that not the case, I was stunned when I read the full story. Please, if there are facts that weren't reported that would make sense of what happened, share them. In the meantime, here's what was reported.
A middle school cross country race with about 400 7th and 8th graders took place in Kincaid Park Tuesday evening. The bull had been lying down near the race course. It was, in fact, one of several moose that adults had been watching after the course was set up.
So, "adults" involved with the race know a bull moose, during mating season, is lying next to the race course and they choose not to alter the course or ensure the moose's relocation. Instead, these grownups run junior varsity girls past the moose. The bull got up, crossed the trail and laid down again just 15 yards from the course. Apparently, having agitated the bull enough to get it to leave its resting place didn't suffice. The adults then ran seventh grade boys by the displaced rutting bull after whichthey became "all excited" about running yet another group of kids - varsity girls - by this bull.
Big surprise, the bull finally jumped up and charged. Lucky for the kids, a parent of one of the racers had known well in advance some moose were acting aggressively, had gotten his 12-gauge shotgun from his vehicle, staked out the bull's location, and was "ready" when the bull, having had three groups of kids run near it, finally charged. This parent even took the photo that appeared in the paper -- before dispatching the bull with two slugs and some buckshot.
What's wrong with this picture? It's elementary, dear Watson. As any little Alaskan kid can tell you and did that same evening. Just a short while after the parent killed the bull, runners in a Tuesday Night Race Series Munchkins Division - the one for little kids - encountered a moose.
"They did the right thing," said Margaret Timmerman, the series race director. "They stopped running, waited for the moose to move away, and kept on running." And, if the moose doesn't move away, you do.
Grownups staging races in Kincaid Park should know, what Jesse Coltrane, Alaska Fish and Game biologist said, "We're right in the middle of the rut so there are a lot of moose in Kincaid and they're busy right now. And so this is the time of year when we do have moose charging people and things, because it's full on mating season."
I'm glad no people were hurt Tuesday evening. Given the felony stupidity of the situation, I'm glad the parent's shotgun didn't jam and no other mishap occurred. But I shudder at what the kids might have taken away from this incident, including the 13 year old boy pictured in a photo next to the dead bull like it's a hunting trophy. I wish they'd take away the lesson that sometimes grownups are idiots.
I'm no member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I'm an avid hunter and sportsman. We have ethics, too. There was nothing sportsman-like in the ignoble death of this noble creature. It was entirely avoidable with the exercise of an eyedropper's worth of common sense.
Lauding the shooter, under the facts as reported, is like complimenting cannibals for their good manners because they use knives and forks. There is one commendation I'd nominate all the knowing grownups in this race for - induction into the Timothy Treadwall Hall of Fame.
Val Van Brocklyn is a former state and federal prosecutor in Alaska who now trains and writes for law enforcement nationwide. She lives in Anchorage.