Rescuing a moose that fell into a Soldotna basement was not something that Kenai Peninsula firefighter Gunnar Romatz expected on his shift Sunday.
Nonetheless, that’s just where Romatz found himself: helping extract a young moose from the lower level of a home, where the animal became trapped after falling through a window.
“Like any curious human being, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I really want to be there for this because there’s no way anybody’s gonna believe this,’ ” he said a few hours after Sunday’s rescue. “I can’t even believe it.”
Romatz was one of seven firefighters with Central Emergency Services, along with three biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and two Alaska wildlife troopers, who responded to a call in the Soldotna area at around 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Two residents off Ciechanski Road heard a noise at night and stepped outside to look down at their below-grade basement, Romatz said. What they saw was a moose that had fallen through the well of a window.
The basement window is surrounded by metal grating, which pushes the ground away from the window and forms an opening 2 1/2 or 3 feet wide, he said. “Well, the moose fell into that. Its back legs went through it, and then it just continued sliding into their basement.”
The intruder found itself in the basement bedroom with the door shut, Romatz said.
Firefighters say it’s the second time a moose fell into the window well at the home, though the first time the animal didn’t drop all the way inside.
The homeowners couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.
Joseph Morris with Alaska Wildlife Troopers said the situation is not that uncommon, especially when the weather gets colder and moose are actively searching for food.
“It’s not as rare as you think that the moose makes it inside of a home,” Morris said.
The Fish and Game biologists sedated the animal so it could be transported easily.
The responders rolled the moose onto a people mover, essentially a tarp with handles usually used for transporting unconscious patients. The moose scooted over to the center of the tarp.
“Luckily, he was conscious enough to honestly help us out a little bit,” Romatz said. “Luckily, it wasn’t a full-grown moose.”
Carrying the animal through a set of stairs, into the garage and outside, Romatz said he was a little nervous about the tight angles, but everything went smoothly. The responders were checking on each other while moving down the hallway.
“All the while, this moose is just picking its head up, and you’re two inches away from this moose, you know?” he said. “So we’re like, ‘How are you?’ And it just kind of looked at us, ‘Haven’t been in this situation before, you know.’ Us either!”
Outside, responders put the animal, still on the tarp, on the ground, and the biologists got to work. They attended to minor lacerations on the back of the moose’s legs and administered the medication to reverse the effects of the sedative.
“Very successful rescue, no injuries,” Morris said. “Very limited downtime for the moose, which apparently is a concern sometimes.”
To keep the animal calm, the Central Emergency Services responders left the area at around 11:30 a.m., but Romatz said within 10 or 15 minutes, the moose was running without limping. The animal initially took off toward the side of the house with the broken basement window.
“They were like, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no!’ But it just ran off back into the tree line,” Romatz said. “We got a video of it, and it was happy, healthy — and a job well done, apparently.”