Last week, a fully-grown moose wandered into the front lobby of the Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage and began snacking on some nearby plants. The moose entered the hospital around 11:30 a.m. through the front door, frozen open due to extreme cold, and remained inside for approximately 10 minutes before politely showing itself out.
Video courtesy of YouTube/AP
It’s no surprise to see wildlife in the Anchorage area, says Ken Marsh, the information officer for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game, but in the case of the moose coming indoors, “it’s just something that doesn’t happen every day.”
Marsh says it’s likely the moose was sampling the landscaped shrubs outside the hospital and followed them to the front door where it was lured inside by the planted greenery. “It’s winter time, we’ve got plenty of snow, it’s cold,” Marsh says. “Moose are having to find food where they can to keep up their energy reserves and stay warm.”
Although this moose was described as having a mellow demeanour and left the hospital on its own accord, people still need to be wary of wildlife in urban settings. “What we ask people to do is be alert, keep their distance. Don’t try to crowd wildlife that may be in an urban setting,” Marsh says. As tempting as it is to whip out your phone and snap a selfie with a docile moose, these are still wild animals and Marsh warns that getting too close can stress them out, causing them to attack.
It’s best to give the animal space, especially with predatory animals like bears and coyotes. Whether you call the authorities to alert them of the animal often depends on where you are geographically. If a black bear appears in Ottawa’s Byward Market like it did this past summer, you may want to hop on the phone and give local authorities a call. But if you see a moose wandering the suburbs of Anchorage, well, this is pretty commonplace, Marsh says. “Gosh, if you were to call authorities anytime there was a moose in Anchorage, the phone lines would be busy pretty much 24/7.”
No matter where you are, though, if a wild animal is in an urban setting and is acting aggressive, attacking people, then you want to call your local wildlife department and potentially the local authorities.
Typically, though, animals do not mean people harm and are drawn into urban environments by attractants like trash and pet food that’s been left out. “You want to keep that secured,” Marsh says. “That would be not so much for your moose, of course, but for your bears.” In the case of animals like brown bears, if they start getting into human-provided food, they can actually become quite dangerous.
It’s important to manage these attractants in order to prevent animals from wandering into urban settings. And, although it’s a spectacular sight, if you want to avoid a moose popping in for dinner, Marsh says: “You might consider altering your landscaping away from doors.” That way you’re not funnelling moose towards your home or business.