The Alaska Moose Federation is back in operation.
Executive Director Don Dyer said the federation's fleet has picked up more than 200 moose killed in vehicle collisions on roads in Southcentral since October, with plans to expand north in coming weeks. When Dyer took over the organization in August he said they intended to limit their scope to roadkill pickups and the delivery of moose meat.
"We're focused on the mission and we're moving along," Dyer said.
The nonprofit has faced scrutiny over the years due to controversial programs coupled with millions of dollars in state funds. The roadkill moose pickup operation, where a fleet of trucks salvaged dead animals and delivered them to individual charities, was praised for its success. But other programs, like moose feeding stations and a controversial calf-rearing program, raised questions about the group's effectiveness. The Moose Federation stopped nearly all its operations in 2014.
The organization now has five drivers based in Anchorage, Kenai and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, including Dyer and his son, Brandon. He said Monday the group hopes to add one more truck so the fleet can service the Fairbanks area.
Dyer said there have been fewer moose pickups than expected, likely due to low snow coverage in the region. But that doesn't mean the federation isn't busy. There were six pickups in an 18-hour period in early December. The upper Susitna Valley, which has had plenty of snow this year, has been a hotspot for moose collisions, Dyer said.
The work is paid for primarily through a contract with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities that extends through June 2016. The contract allows the nonprofit to pick up the moose and transport them to people on the roadkill moose charities list. They also collect tissue samples for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The contract pays $200 for each moose pickup plus monthly maintenance costs. The three-year contract, should the state choose to extend it beyond 2016, may not exceed $300,000 per year.
According to DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow, $41,700 has been paid to the organization through November.
Since it's a highway safety contract, it's paid for with federal funds, not state money. With the state facing serious budget woes, Dyer said the group doesn't intend to seek state funding. Instead, they're looking at fundraising and possibly renting out equipment.
Dyer said they've received positive feedback from all the deliveries. He said with the trucks and a winch, a moose can be cleared from the roadway in only a matter of minutes. When groups on the charity list try to salvage the moose themselves it can take much longer.
Lori Brenner received a roadkill moose in Meadow Lakes on Christmas night. It was delivered directly to her friend's home for processing by the moose group.
She said she's collected other roadkill moose in the past without assistance from the federation. Once a moose was struck and rolled down a hill and had to be dragged out of the woods. It took an hour just to get it loaded on a trailer.
With the federation, there were "No worries about working around traffic. No worries about having to guard the roadkill until the whole team shows up for loading -- we have actually had people try and take the moose before we got there or before all of our team had arrived," she wrote in a Facebook message Monday. "Basically, the process of having the (Alaska) Moose Federation pick it up and deliver has made it safer and more efficient."
And that's exactly what Dyer hopes to accomplish.
"It really is a valuable service and we would like to see it keep going," Dyer said.