Two visitors from Ohio interrupted a life-or-death struggle between a moose and a wolf on a Kenai Peninsula trail this week, but it wasn't until after the wolf gave up the struggle and fled that things took a dangerous turn for the men, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
That's when the cow moose charged the men, forcing one up a tree and the other behind a downed tree to avoid the injured animal. There they waited for four hours, the moose holding its ground the entire time, before help arrived and killed the animal, according to troopers.
Events began Thursday afternoon, when 31-year-old Sean Evans of Toronto, Ohio, and his cousin, Josh Clark, 30, of Scio, Ohio, were snowshoeing out to a cabin at Crescent Lake to spend some time snowboarding. The men came around a bend in the trail and were dipping underneath a fallen tree when they saw a spectacle crashing through the brush toward them from a hill about 20 feet away, said Clark, reached by cell phone Friday.
"The wolf had torn off some skin from the moose's neck and was hanging on its neck. The moose was making awful noises. We kind of looked at each other for three seconds and decided to start moving," Clark said. "The moose was trying to get rid of the wolf, and they started coming down the hill really fast at us. And so we split, we got out of the way, and they started fighting right where we had been standing."
The men told troopers they heard other wolves howling in the woods, though they saw only the one.
They dropped their packs and Clark hustled up a nearby birch tree, while Evans got behind the fallen tree, Clark said. The wolf apparently lost its appetite at the sight of the men and ran off. But the moose, which had injuries to its back legs and its neck, wouldn't leave even after they yelled and threw things at it, he said.
Clark said they weren't armed but wished they were.
"Anytime one of us moved, it kind of charged and paused," Clark said. "I was in the tree. I didn't care. So anytime (Evans) would start making noises, I would try to sort of distract it, because I felt pretty safe."
Eventually, they decided the snorting moose wasn't leaving and called for help. Troopers say they got a cell phone call about 3 p.m. Thursday reporting the men were trapped by the moose along Crescent Creek Trail.
The men had rented the cabin at the lake, which is about 7 1/2 miles into the trail, but they were only about two miles in from Quartz Creek Campground near the Sterling Highway when they got pinned, Chugach National Forest spokeswoman Mona Spargo said. Two troopers and a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer put in along Quartz Creek Road, she said.
"They tried to snowmachine in, but it's kind of cruddy right now," Spargo said. "They only made it about a half mile and then post-holed the rest of the way."
When they got on scene along a fairly steep ridge, they saw the moose standing at the base of the tree with Clark in it, said wildlife trooper Kenneth Acton, who was among the officers. The men had been trapped about four hours, and the moose, apparently scared, refused to budge, even after a few warning shots, he said.
"They were totally blocked. The moose isn't going anywhere," Acton said. "They'd been hiking and snowshoeing in, so they didn't have all of their cold-weather gear on because of perspiration and all that, and now one's been up in the tree for four hours. I mean, he was visibly shaking, I think not only from adrenaline but from the elements as well."
For the men's safety, troopers decided to kill the moose. They shot it with a rifle, cleaned it and donated the meat to charity, Acton said.
The men were uninjured in the ordeal and, after packing it out of the trail, were able to get back to their vacation.
"We went to the Sunrise Inn and had some beers and some food," Clark said. "We're going to do some snowboarding and hang out with some friends."
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.
By JAMES HALPIN