wait a moment

Alaska’s worst garden pest? That would be moose.

Gardening where I live, part 117: Last night I was  reading at the kitchen table when a brown blur crossed my peripheral vision.

A moving brown blur. A really big brown blur.

Turned my head to the left and yep, a cow moose was walking into our yard, followed by a tottery little calf. Right toward our garden full of young quinoa, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, strawberries and other plants.


Baby wouldn’t touch the stuff at this age, but mama has to consume enough calories to stay alive, defend herself and the calf, and produce milk. Our yard would be the equivalent of a salad bar.

“Moose!” I yelled to DF, then hustled for the dynamite whistle. He was faster than I am, and had already opened the door to yell, “GET OUTTA THERE! GO ON, GET!”

Mama moose quickly turned and herded her young ’un out of the yard and across the cul-de-sac When they were long gone, I went back to reading.

Except a few minutes later I caught a glimpse of another brown blur. A solo brown blur, too small to be a mama and too tall to be the baby we just saw.

It was maybe a year old, with no mama in sight – maybe she was hit by a car – and its ears were swiveling like radar dishes. The neighbor’s Jack Russell terrier may have been at the window, barking hysterically. Sometimes even a yappy dog is good for something.


Moose on the loose


Ultimately this critter trotted off, too, toward the main road. I hoped none of the ungulates would return overnight, while we slept, to vacuum up our bedding plants.

The weather at that time was rainy and blustery. DF theorized that maybe the mama was trying to find a quiet place to bed down, out of the worst of the blow. Fine with me, as long as it was somewhere else. I stayed up later than I’d planned, keeping an eye out and hoping that the moose had found some nice, quiet greenbelt.

DF has a plan to fence off the side yard to at least deter future moose. But nothing will keep them out except a fence taller than six feet – and even then a moose can potentially vault over it. “If it’s motivated,”  DF says.

I don’t want it to be motivated. I want it to be gone. I want it to be out in the woods or the nearby bog, browsing on willow and aquatic plants the way Nature intended.

When humans settled the area and started putting in gardens, we permanently distracted a whole lotta Alces alces, which hang around Anchorage neighborhoods to eat  ornamental and fruit trees, shrubs and, yeah, vegetable gardens.

Flower gardens, too. A photographer I know noticed her tulips had reached the peak of perfection and planned to shoot them when she got home. But when she did, she found that a moose had chewed them right down to the ground. Those darned opportunistic ungulates.


Of moose and men


Sometimes animal-lovers say, “Hey, the moose were here first!” Yes, they were. But as of 1915, when the United States government decided to build a railroad, the Anchorage area became a permanent human settlement. And we never left.

Bears were here, too. But humans, intent on carving out homesteads and a railroad line – and keeping their chickens and their children alive – shot at enough of the animals to warn them to keep their distance. In this case, we were the apex predators.

Like moose, the bruins are still here; both black and grizzly bears live in Anchorage. We coexist somewhat uneasily. The front page story of today’s newspaper was about the one-year anniversary of the death of a 16-year-old boy in a competitive hill-climb race. He texted a family member that a bear was following him. Searchers found the teen dead*, with a black bear circling his body.

Point is, people live here now. The animals will have to move on, or at least keep back. Alaska is enormous, and willows grow in a lot of places. Quinoa, however, grows only in our yard.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn: What are your worst garden pests? Deer? Gophers? Slugs? Rabbits? Vegans?


Related reading:

  • Grizzly bears are moving through town
  • The marvel of an Alaska summer
  • Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear, Alaska style

*This link is to the previous year’s coverage. These days you need to subscribe to the paper to read current news online.

Oh, and the photo above isn’t the moose in the story. That’s an older picture that I shot through a window.

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