Saturday, June 15, 2013

"I don't think anybody would've done anything differently" - Killing Moose In Denali National Park

The Anchorage Daily News story "Air Force staff sergeant felt he had to shoot charging Denali moose" Thursday tells about a family hike near the entrance to Denali National Park. They encountered a moose that charged them.  The airman, fairly new to Alaska, says he reluctantly shot the moose in the head when he felt his kids lives were in danger. 

I thought about this as I stopped on the Chester Creek bike trail on the way home Friday afternoon to watch a moose grazing about 50 feet off the trail. 

Richard Mauer wrote in the ADN story:
"Sirvid said he realizes some people think he shouldn't have shot the moose."

"I just wish that they were there with me. I know there are some points of views out there, but I don't think anybody would've done anything differently," Sirvid said.
Actually, I would have done something differently.  I wouldn't have shot the moose because I wouldn't have had a gun.

Carrying guns in Denali National Park only became legal in 2010, so all these years people managed their encounters with wildlife in the Park without killing the animals.  When we first came to Alaska - 35 years ago - I looked up the history of bear encounters in the Park.  No human had ever been killed by a bear in the Park.  I had done a check earlier when I snorkled in Hawaii and realized I knew nothing about the dangers I faced.  I learned that world wide, at that time, about ten people a year were killed by sharks.  I decided my odds were better in the water than on the road.   

A Craig Medred story in the Alaska Dispatch says that the first human killed by a bear in Denali only happened last year. Denali National Park's FAQ's about bears says there have only been 23 incidents where bears have injured humans in the Park.

No one can say what might have happened if Sirvid hadn't shot the moose.  I'm not saying I know that no one would have been killed by the moose or at least badly hurt.  I don't dispute his story - how could I?  He was there and I wasn't.   But considering the number of people killed by moose in Denali over the years (I can't find any examples), the probability is that no one would have died.

I do dispute his comment that nobody else would have done anything differently, because most of the people who have ever gone to Denali never had that choice to make.  Because they came into the wilderness unarmed.

And if he weren't carrying a gun, he would have spent what time he had thinking about non-lethal ways to avoid the moose instead of whether he should shoot or not.

And Friday, after I watched the moose for a while, I continued on home through the sun and shadows of the birch lined trail.

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