Taylor Hicks came around the corner of Cuddy Hall to see a bull moose blown away in front of her.
19-year-old Hicks, an undeclared UAA freshman, admitted she didn’t first notice the moose to the side of the flashing cop car in the growing dusk of last Monday evening. She was made immediately aware, though, as a UPD officer shouted, “Get behind me! Move! Move!” and brought his shotgun to bear on the approaching animal.
“I was completely shocked,” said Hicks. “Walking toward the [Sally Monserud Hall], going to French class, and here’s this police officer yelling to get behind him as he shoots this moose down right in front of me! It was crazy.”
Originally from Ketchikan, Hicks had hardly ever seen a moose before, so the mere fact of being so close to one of the large creatures was surreal enough to begin with. The freshman said she didn’t understand why the moose needed to be shot at all.
“It was just stepping down from snow covered center of the quad, casually walking,” she said. “It didn’t seem like it was going to hurt me or anything; not a threat at all. I didn’t really see the point in it.”
Hicks, however, didn’t know at the time that the young bull moose had been chasing and charging several students in the close vicinity just moments before, as well as harassing the student body and UPD officers alike over the previous week.
Around 5 p.m. Monday the 13th, UPD began receiving calls reporting an aggressive moose terrorizing several students between the Rasmuson and Cuddy Halls. At the time, officers were investigating an assault that had taken place at the University Center and so were unable to respond immediately, but the calls continued to come in.
“After we had received several reports of this aggressive moose, we deemed it a serious student hazard,” said UPD deputy chief Munn.
He and UPD officer Bozeman returned to the campus around 5:30 p.m., and began monitoring the young bull outside the RH. It still appeared agitated, and shortly after the officers’ arrival ran across the quad area to the Allied Health Building and then over to the Eugene Short Hall. At that point it appeared to calm down a bit, simply munching on tree branches. The two men positioned themselves on either side of the moose along the path, directing students away from the animal.
“For a while, the moose was just eating—it didn’t seem to be doing anything,” Munn said.
But then a female student came around the left corner of the ESH, directly into the bull moose’s path. The moose’s head swung up and it charged the girl before Munn or Bozeman were able to react. The girl quickly ducked behind one of the building’s pillars, and the moose attempted to follow her around the column. The officers approached and were fortunately able to frighten the animal back across the quad before the student was harmed.
It took up residence in between the SMH and Cuddy, where it stood against a clump of trees next to the snow-scattered pathway. Munn and Bozeman followed in wary pursuit, their shotguns drawn at this point. A police car was also brought over right around 6 p.m. with its lights flashing to ward off students.
“It was obvious the moose was very agitated,” said Munn, “and we had clear cause to believe it to be an extreme threat to student safety. We had to be ready for another outburst.”
The men remained on close alert, but once again there appeared to be a lull in activity. The moose stood on the rise and once again chewed on twigs, seemingly indifferent.
That’s when Hicks came walking around the left side of the Cuddy, attracting the moose’s attention. Bozeman ordered Hicks to move behind him, and as the moose continued to approach, he pumped a shotgun round into the animal. The single shot killed the moose, dropping it immediately.
Hicks continued on her way. “I was freaking out,” she said. “And I had to get to class.”
Munn called Maintenance and had them bring a tarp to cover the fallen animal. UPD then notified the Alaska State Troopers, who brought out a charity organization to collect the game meat and distribute to those in need. The moose was winched into the back of a truck and carted off campus.
“Our number one priority is protecting the students, faculty and administration, and having already charged several students, the moose had crossed that line,” said Bozeman in defense of his decision to fire. “We’ve had problem with moose like this before: a one-year-old bull starting to get its antlers is like a hormonal teenager with all sorts of flowing testosterone. They tend to get aggressive.”
There have been a few other instances of putting down aggressive moose on campus. One was shot in 2006, and another in March of 2010. Most notably, a moose was killed after trampling a man to death outside the Wells Fargo Sports Complex roughly a decade ago.
“We hate to do it, we don’t want to do it, but ultimately it comes down to the importance of student safety,” said Munn.
UPD officers are not permitted to carry tranquilizers on campus, forcing any excessive action taken to be deadly. According to Jessy Coltrane, the Area Wildlife Biologist for Alaska Fish & Game, tranquilizers are deemed a dangerous drug by the U.S. Legislature, labeled as a Schedule II narcotic.
“It’s something you don’t want to be slinging around the campus and neighborhoods,” Coltrane said.
Fish & Game was not called in to deal with the moose during this occurrence, but Coltrane agrees with the UPD’s decision to put the animal down.
“Tranquilizing animals isn’t the greatest solution for everything,” she said. “You could tranq the moose, but then what would you do with it? You’d have a potentially even more dangerous situation when it wakes up, because now it’s angry and loopy.”