Snow, moose chill Anchorage Easter egg hunt; police officer hurt

This story was originally published in the Anchorage Daily News on April 1, 1991

What began as a traditional egg hunt on a lovely Easter afternoon had suddenly gone awry.

Children were missing, lost in the woods and stuck in punchy, waist-deep snow. Others were complaining of frozen fingers and toes.

A moose charged Officer Fred Jones. And then the shooting began.

The veteran Anchorage patrolman was sent to Russian Jack Springs Park Sunday afternoon to help round up children who had strayed from the softball fields where 15,000 colored eggs were hidden.

More than 1,500 children turned out for the annual Kiwanis Club Easter Egg Hunt, co-sponsored by the Anchorage Daily News this year, and some had pushed too far into the park.

"They outran their supply line, " Sgt. Marilyn Bailey joked.


Kids became stuck in the deep snow and mud and began to panic. At least eight were reported missing by their parents.

Jones entered the park from the north, off Boniface Parkway, but soon found that the crusty spring snow made walking impossible.

He was heading back to his patrol car when he saw a movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and an angry bull moose was on top of him.

"He was right there, " Jones said from his hospital room Sunday evening. "I bailed for some bushes. I think he caught me with his antler at the same time."

Jones floundered in the deep snow, pulling himself along with his arms to get away. He struggled to his feet. About 30 yards away was a cow moose, also moving in his direction.

He yelled and waved his arms, hoping to frighten the bull. No luck. The 1,500-pound animal stood a short 5 feet away, his head lowered. So Jones drew his semiautomatic pistol and fired once into the snow directly in front of the moose.

"He stood his ground, " Jones recalled. "Gave me time to get on the radio and inform a sergeant I'd been charged."

The bull raised his head, then lowered it again.

"What was I thinking?" Jones asked. " "It's over.' I was scared. I didn't know if I was going to win this one."

He started shooting as the bull charged a second time. The animal went down. Jones said he composed himself in time to see the moose try to get up again. So he fired two more shots into its head.

In all, Jones said he fired 11 rounds. Some were so close, "I wouldn't be surprised if he had powder burns."

Meanwhile, across the park, the missing children were showing up but a police sergeant was lost. Three youngsters were sent to the hospital with frostbite.

Jones drove himself to Humana Hospital-Alaska where he was treated for an injured shoulder and an elevated heart rate. He said he was all right, "other than feeling like I got hit by a Mack truck." Doctors were worried that his heart was bruised in the attack.

The meat from the moose was donated to charity, but Jones' fellow officers proposed stuffing the head and mounting it in the squad room at police headquarters.

Jones, who found velvet from the antlers on his uniform, marveled at the dead bull's tenaciousness.

"I've never seen a moose be that aggressive, " he said.

Chuck Schwartz, a Kenai moose biologist, said the animal was likely startled and felt cornered. Moose have trouble moving through crusty snow, and when they can't flee, they fight. The creature may also have been annoyed by the hundreds of children that invaded his home, Schwartz said.

"Moose are less tolerant of children. A whole bunch of kids running around out there could have aggravated this moose."

Marilee Enge

Marilee Enge is a former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.