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Moose deaths by trains hit 10-year low due to light snowfall

Light snowfall kept moose deaths by train to a 10-year low this winter.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the animals have an easier time getting out of the way of oncoming trains when the tracks are clear.

Numbers released by the Alaska Railroad and the state Department of Fish and Game show 24 moose were killed this winter compared to 292 in 2011-12, a year of record snowfall in Southcentral Alaska.

A combined total of 54 moose were killed in the two winters before.

Alaska Railroad spokesman Tim Sullivan said the majority of the animals are hit in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys, and that about half of the meat is usually salvageable. Charities distribute the meat to needy families and sometimes meet railroad workers at a crossing to take the carcasses.

"It's a pretty big deal for our crews, you know, our folks who are driving the trains, to hit a moose. It isn't pleasant. We're all Alaskans, and just about everybody here hunts moose or eats moose, and at the very least they appreciate the wildlife," Sullivan said. "To have that happen is pretty stressful. Our folks do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen."

Fish and Game wildlife biologist Todd Rinaldi works in the Matanuska Valley keeping tabs on moose numbers. He said he's expecting more moose strikes due to a new Knik-area rail extension.

"That rail extension goes through some pretty prime moose habitat," he said.

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