Hunters, mooove along -- no ‘free cows’ in the Valley

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Alaska Farm & Food Facebook group usually stays pretty calm and pastoral.

But the immediate and angry response to this humdinger of a question blazed right past the posts on when to pick pumpkins, artichoke-threatening aphids and pictures of chickens for sale.

“I heard the cows in Wasilla from the dairy farm are free to get or hunt is this true(?)” one curious gentleman innocently asked Tuesday night.

Hundreds of commenters jumped into the fray with a mix of outrage, killer-cow jokes and a few people wondering the same thing.

“Ur going to hunt a cow? Like a moo cow? Why?” one dismayed group member wrote.

The short answer to the cow-hunting question is no, as the handful of people who called the Alaska Department of Fish and Game this week learned.

It is not OK to shoot cows in Wasilla -- or anywhere else in the Valley for that matter.

“You can’t hunt the cows. It’s illegal to hunt the cows. They’re owned,” said Todd Rinaldi, Palmer area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Here’s the thing: Under state statute, it’s legal to graze up to five domesticated animals on state lands without any kind of authorization, according to Erik Johnson, a natural resources specialist with the Alaska Division of Agriculture. So those animals wandering around most likely belong to somebody.

This isn’t the first time the cow question has surfaced. The Olson family holds a 1,000-acre grazing lease on Mental Health Trust lands up against the Talkeetna Mountains north of Church Road where they’ve historically run hardy Highland cattle.

“People would call and say, ‘Hey, I saw a black cow on the side of Hatcher Pass. Can I shoot it?’” Johnson said. “No! That is somebody’s cow … it’s just not a free-for-all.”

Here’s another thing: Even if the wandering bovine didn’t belong to someone, it’s not legal under state hunting regulations to take one out.

There is no sanctioned hunting season on Mat-Su cows, Rinaldi said. The last page of the hunting regulation book (that would be page 133) lists exotic, deleterious or other wildlife oddities that do have hunting seasons. Cows? Not there.

“If the animal does not have a season in that area or in Alaska, you can’t hunt it,” he said. “One of the misconceptions that the public has is if it’s not in the hunting reg book then it’s fair game and that’s not the case.”

By late in the week, Facebook seemed to have the situation well in hand anyway.

“To whom it may concern;there are no free cows anywhere in the valley and rumors about free cattle in the little susitna area are (completely) wrong!” one Farm & Food group member posted. “Trespassers will be prosecuted!!!!"