A dead moose calf, its missing mother and lots of people have added up to a moose murder mystery near Delta.
State Fish and Game biologists and the Alaska State Troopers are investigating the possibility a 1-week-old moose calf found dead June 18 was killed by someone trying to help it.
Fish and Game said a necropsy performed on the animal showed the calf drowned, even though there were no lakes, puddles or streams nearby. The calf also showed signs of bruising in the back of its throat, leading biologists to believe someone stuck a tube down its throat in an attempt to hydrate the young animal -- which had been reported by people in the area to have been abandoned earlier in the day.
"We absolutely believe someone killed this animal while trying to give it water -- thinking they were saving it," Fish and Game spokesperson, Cathie Harms said.
Harms said people had gathered around the calf a day earlier and were concerned it was thirsty. At one point, Fort Greely environmental workers and a state wildlife biologist from Delta arrived and tried to disperse the crowd; they feared the presence of people would keep the calf's mother away.
Fish and Game said it is not a good idea to assume any young animal has been abandoned when found alone. "Cow moose often leave their young for extended periods to feed. It's very unlikely the calf was abandoned, because cow moose rarely abandon a healthy calf after the first day or two, and this one was a week old," Harms said.
State Wildlife Troopers said they are investigating -- trying to discover who gave the calf water. If they find the person acted negligently, he or she could face up to a $10,000 fine and a year in jail. Anyone convicted might also have to pay for the value of the moose, listed as $1,000 by the state.
"Wildlife just don't respond well to human contact," Wildlife Trooper Justine Rodgers said.
Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com