Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Moose Season/Mouse Season
In Connecticut, the largest game I'm used to seeing is the whitetail deer that plague my parents' garden. My mother and father have become expert at pinging them with their Daisy Red Ryder Western Carbine Air Rifle...and thankfully nobody's shot their eye out yet. But this hardly equates to the type of game (or hunting) that is in Alaska. Here there are ten species of big game - Bison, Caribou, Elk, Musk Ox, Black Bear, Brown/Grizzly bear, Dall Sheep, Deer, Mountain Goat and Moose. And while I have seen moose in our back yard and in nearby streams [pictured above] I'm not having to shoo musk ox away from the marigolds, or keep caribou from snacking on the cone flowers. Most of this game is spread out over the state, moving seasonally to find vegetation.
It's hard to really wrap your mind around the immensity of Alaska. These animals move across an area of 365,000,000 (for those of you who blur zeros together that's 365 Million!) acres. That is one-fifth the size of the entire United States. Here's another perspective - that's more than 100 times the size of Connecticut (which is the 48th ranked state for size at 3,211,520 acres). The weather can be uncertain and so can the movement of the animals. It's little wonder that hunting in Alaska is a challenge!
Most hunters in Alaska, because of the difficulty involved, save up money and vacation time and plan intensive, multi-day hunts. The soldiers here at Fort Wainwright have a four day weekend coming up just because of moose season. Many families depend on the meat that they get to last them through the winter. Hunting is (at least for the people that I've talked to) partly about the expertise and skill required and partly about subsistence. And I'm really okay with that. Alaskans and nonresidents annually harvest approximately 6,000 to 8,000 moose, some 3.5 million pounds of meat! Hunters can donate meat they are not going to use to shelters.
The more I read about moose (naturally) the more interesting I find them. I didn't know that moose have actually benefited from the timber industry and from forest fires. Apparently this creates news areas of young timber which is "good moose food". Moose have high reproduction rates/potential and can easily overpopulate ranges. Mostly the population is kept in check by predation. Not only are they hunted by people, but they are hunted by wolves and bears. Cows can frequently give birth to twins and sometimes triplets! ;) Although these newborns weigh from 28 - 35 pounds and in their first five months they will gain more than ten times their birth mass - weighing around 500 pounds!
Today I am joining the hunting season - but for mouse! This morning I was awoken by the mouse scampering along the top of the mattress behind my head. Uff da! After I wrenched the bed away from the wall and removed all the space-bagged linens from beneath it, I adjourned to the living room. Apparently the mouse thought this was a good idea too. As I sat here typing the mouse leapt from the ottoman onto the arm of the loveseat. He does not respect me at all! I saw him hide inside the rolled-up rugs that were stored behind this loveseat. I pulled out all the rugs and unrolled them, spreading them around the apartment. Aha! The mousey secret stash of one dried macaroni noodle, a corn chip and some other crumbs was revealed! I callously destroyed this accumulation of goodies. Mouse season has begun!!
And yes, mama, I did feel like Henry's Awful Mistake.