I Found a Baby Moose Calf Without its Mother, What Should I Do?
- ADF&G Press Release

Cora Campbell, Commissioner
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, Alaska 99811
Phone: (907) 465-6166 - Fax: (907) 465-2332

Press Release: June 10, 2014

Contact: Ken Marsh, Information Officer, (907) 267-2892

I Found a Baby Moose Calf Without its Mother, What Should I Do?

(Statewide) — Moose calves are being captured and kidnapped by well-meaning, but misguided, Alaskans.

State wildlife biologists from the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys to Anchorage, Kenai and beyond are busy responding to reports of “orphaned” or “abandoned” moose calves chained in subdivision backyards; held in residential living rooms; and pulled from the grounds of elite, back-country lodges.

In one case, a calf was fitted with a collar and chained to a Valley resident’s dog run for three days before Palmer Area Wildlife Biologist Todd Rinaldi was alerted and able to respond. In another instance, a calf was snatched from the forest near a neighborhood street.

“Passersby were worried that dogs might find the calf,” said Rinaldi, “so they brought it to their home and kept it inside without first notifying the Department of Fish and Game.”

Because the calf was not left undisturbed in the heavily wooded area, the mother lost all opportunity to reunite with the calf.

Meanwhile, Anchorage biologists found themselves wrangling a lanky moose calf that had earlier been dragging an extension cord wrapped around its neck.

“Kids and dogs were chasing a cow with twin calves and one calf got separated,” said Anchorage Area Biologist Jessy Coltrane. “Then a guy tackled it and tied it up with an extension cord.”

The calf eventually managed to escape and Coltrane was able to catch up with it late Friday night. “More kids and dogs were chasing the calf,” she said, “and then some people corralled it into a back yard. We were forced to pick it up at that time because of the people issue.” Coltrane and an assistant were able to retrieve the calf and reunite it with its mother who remained nearby.

Most people who try to take in moose calves and other young wildlife have good intentions. Unfortunately, misguided efforts can lead young animals to lives in captivity or death.

“Natural options are usually better,” said Southcentral Regional Supervisor Larry Van Daele. “Young animals taken from their mothers have a smaller chance of survival.”

Moose calves and other animals taken from the wild can sometimes be placed in zoos or other accredited wildlife facilities. Unfortunately, the facilities available often have limited space. Animals raised in captivity and released into the wild do not have good chances of survival because they are usually smaller than normal and do not have their mothers to protect or guide them.

So what should people do when they discover a lone moose calf or any other young wildlife? Department biologists offer the following advice:

  • DON'T assume young animals found alone are orphaned. Mother moose (as well as bears and other wildlife) frequently walk out of sight from their young or become separated by fences or roads for hours or even days. In nearly all cases, mothers return to their young.
  • DON'T touch! Mothers of newborn wildlife are often protective and attacks by moose aggressively defending calves – or bears protecting cubs – are reported each spring in Alaska. Also, transfer of human scent to the calf may affect chances of the cow and calf reuniting.
  • DON'T attempt to feed or pick up wildlife; this type of contact with animals is illegal and may result in fines.
  • DO: Call the nearest Alaska Department of Fish and Game office if you observe a young animal you believe to be orphaned. If the situation occurs outside regular state business hours or involves an immediate public safety concern, contact the Alaska State Troopers.

For more information, visit http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=distressedwildlife.mammals .