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Anchorage Assembly to consider measure regulating metal fences that impale moose

Devin Kelly
A moose impaled on a metal palisade fence in Goldenview Park subdivision died of its injuries in March 2014. The Anchorage Assembly is considering measures to regulate such fences in order to prevent moose deaths.

A measure regulating metal palisade fences, which biologists say are responsible for goring at least five moose in Anchorage in recent years, is being introduced in the Anchorage Assembly this week.

The Gothic-style fences with spiked pointed tips mostly surround private residences for security and aesthetic reasons. But biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game say the fences, which tend to be between 4 and 6 feet tall, kill an average of one to two moose a year in Alaska’s largest city, hanging up or goring the animals that try to jump over the spiked tips.

Now Assembly member Jennifer Johnston of South Anchorage is bringing forward a proposal that would amend Anchorage land-use code to outlaw metal palisade fences shorter than 9 feet, unless the pointed tips of the spikes are removed or the spikes are capped.

Johnston said she drafted the proposal after hearing from residents in her district who saw news reports of moose killings.

The metal fences don’t kill “half as many (moose) as cars,” Johnston said. But, she said, “I had constituents saying, ‘We need to do something about it.’”

Of the thousands of miles of fences in the municipality, relatively few are considered metal palisade fences, though that number is on the rise, according to an April resolution passed by the Watershed and Natural Resources Advisory Commission in support of the measure. Perhaps the most prominent example of a metal palisade fence can be found at the historic Atwood mansion, where a series of moose impalements drew the attention of articles and commentary pieces in recent years.

About five years ago, area biologist Jessy Coltrane shot down two moose calves impaled on the mansion fence on the same day.

“It’s pretty gruesome and horrible for all parties involved,” said Coltrane, who refers to metal palisade fences as “impalement fences.” Either the moose are gutted while jumping over, or their skinny ankles are caught and they hang upside down before dying, she said.

The Atwood Foundation has since repaired the mansion fence, placing a flat bar across the top to cover the spikes, said Ira Perman, the foundation’s executive director.

A metal palisade fence at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has also been moose-proofed, with officials placing black PVC pipe caps on the spikes after several moose were impaled there, Coltrane said.

But in general, Coltrane said, while homeowners and business owners whose fences snag the animals are both horrified and remorseful when it happens, she’s seen little action toward repairing or improving private fences.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled to take place at the Assembly meeting on Aug. 5.

Contact Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com.