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Moose Conservation Group Investigated by Alaska Troopers

Orphan Calf: Official says federation broke law by handling animal

Alex deMarban / Anchorage Daily News / June 15, 2007


State wildlife troopers are investigating a moose conservation group and allies who picked up an orphaned moose calf two weeks ago, according to the group's chairman.

The Alaska Moose Federation broke the law by handling and transporting the calf from an Anchorage neighborhood to a vet for treatment and later to the Alaska Zoo, Matt Robus, the state's wildlife conservation director, has alleged.

He asked wildlife officers to investigate.

Handling and transporting wild animals without a permit from the state Department of Fish and Game is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of $10,000 and one year in jail. The moose federation, and the people who helped, had no permit, Robus said.

Capt. Burke Waldron, the investigator, wants to know if anyone knowingly broke the law, he said. Waldron wouldn't describe additional details of the case, such as exactly who is under investigation.

Tom Harris, chief executive of Tyonek's Native corporation, transported the calf to the Diamond Animal Clinic on May 31 and to the zoo on June 1. Gary Olson, moose federation chairman, helped. Harris is an advisory board member with the federation.

The dehydrated calf was abandoned for three days after a bear attacked its mother and nipped the calf in the back with its teeth, Olson said. A June 4 necropsy by the state, however, concluded that a dog, not a bear, likely bit the calf.

A zoo official said the calf couldn't stand up, had trouble feeding and was in poor health. The zoo euthanized the calf with a barbiturate June 3.

The federation and the state have been at odds before over the state's moose population, estimated at 140,000. The federation says the state doesn't do enough to help orphaned calves recover.

Robus said the state tries to avoid taking in animals. He said efforts to rescue calves might not help the animals. For example, mothers might return to calves that appear orphaned.

Olson said he and the veterinarian who treated the moose -- Del Seeba, an adviser to the moose federation -- got a call this week from Waldron, the investigating trooper. Olson said he'll likely meet Waldron next week as part of the investigation. Olson said he's not worried about going to jail if the arrest draws public attention to his group's desire to boost moose numbers.

Harris said he hasn't been contacted by Waldron, but hopes he is. If he broke the law for trying to help a calf, then the law needs to change, he said.

Find Alex deMarban online at adn.com/contact/ademarban or call 257-4310.

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