ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alaska wildlife officials warned people to keep their distance from grumpy moose after two close calls this past weekend.
One of the animals walked up behind a woman tending chickens in the city of Homer on Sunday and started eating chicken food from a bucket she carried. When she turned, the startled moose kicked her.
"It pulled its nose out of the bucket, looked at her, reared back and kicked her right in the noggin'," said Jason Herreman, assistant area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Another agitated moose twice charged skiers in a lift line Saturday at Alyeska Resort, a downhill ski venue in the resort town of Girdwood, said Ken Marsh, spokesman for Fish and Game. No one was hurt, but authorities advised resort officials to shoot and kill the animal Sunday to remove the threat to skiers.
"Not all moose are looking for a fight right now, but they do tend to get a little cranky this time of year," Marsh said.
In summer, moose eat lush leaves but turn to twigs and other woody material in winter, which are not as nutritious, biologists said. The animals are tired and ready for spring, Marsh said.
Most Alaska residents know better than to get near a moose in mating season or between a moose mother and a new calf, but they generally regard the animals as docile. Moose are a common sight along roads and even streets of Anchorage, the state's largest city.
At the ski resort, the moose was positioned at a blind corner. Skiers had to pass the animal to get to the lift line. As more skiers appeared, the moose became increasingly agitated and charged people twice.
"It sort of ended up resembling the running of the bulls in Pamplona," Marsh said.
Feeding moose can trigger attacks, and the woman who was kicked in the head unintentionally was doing just that, Herreman said.
She had been allowing her chickens to roam and would periodically throw them feed, not knowing that a moose born last year had been chasing the chickens off to eat the feed, he said.
The young moose defended itself as it would against a wolf: "They rear up on their back legs a little bit and then kick out with their front ones," Herreman said.
The woman had a welt on her head afterward. A blow to the head from a large cow could have been fatal, he said. Adult moose range from 800-pound small cows to 1,600-pound large adult bulls.
"Now she's keeping her chickens in the coop and feeding them in the coop," Herreman said.