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Roadkill charity: Alaska program salvages moose meat for the state's needy


The Associated Press


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Billy Dickerson Jr. and Cody Dyer trudged through the deep snow and dense woods with one mission: retrieve a moose carcass that had become roadkill.

They dragged the dead animal to their pickup truck and hauled it to Dickerson's house, where it would be gutted and eventually sent on its way to the plates of poor Alaskans.


It's an act repeated hundreds of times each year in Alaska, where workers salvage moose roadkill and donate the meat to charities. Alaska has the nation's biggest moose population, and vehicles and trains here kill about 820 of the big-antlered creatures each year.


"It gives more folks a chance for free meat. A lot of people can't afford to buy steaks or even hamburger, at least judging from the calls I get," said Brooks, the roadkill program coordinator for the Anchorage region and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, who is known among colleagues as Queen of the Gut Pile.


Other states have roadkill programs, but primarily for smaller animals like elk and deer. Maine is among the few states with moose and gives motorists first right to roadkills, then donates unwanted animals to the needy.


Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection Troopers coordinate the Alaska program, which requires that the meat be given away to anyone who asks. Nonprofit groups, including churches, sign up to take turns collecting the roadkill remains.


Often, traffic collisions only maim moose, so authorities must shoot the animals. In the Anchorage area, that job frequently goes to Fish and Game wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott, who shot the moose Dickerson retrieved after it was seen limping around the area.


Brooks estimates that nearly all the roadkill moose goes to nonprofits. The rate is so high because state police are usually so quickly notified of a moose-vehicle collision, and because the program requires that a volunteer agency be able to respond within 30 minutes to salvage the meat.


Dickerson was called because his name was next on the contact list as a representative of the Anchorage Baptist Temple. A lifetime hunter, Dickerson estimated the 1,100-pound moose in midtown Anchorage would yield 700 pounds of meat.


But first he and 14-year-old Cody had to figure out the best route to drag it through 300 yards of spruce no small feat given the moose's large frame and the chilly Anchorage temperatures.


"This isn't for everyone," Dickerson said, tying a nylon rope around the dead moose's neck.


Brooks said 99 nonprofit organizations are signed up this winter in the area she manages.


Among them is Abbott Loop Community Church, a two-decade participant that averages 10 moose a year, according to member Steve Tandy. The meat is distributed through a community food pantry at the church.


"We always have lots of moose available to whoever wants it," Tandy said. "We never turn anyone away."


Participants occasionally are called to salvage black bears, Dall sheep or mountain goats, Brooks said. But the great majority of collisions involve moose, which is very lean and has a gamy taste.


Sinnott said he's shot more injured moose than usual in Anchorage this winter. He attributed the rise to increasing moose numbers in the city about 1,900 a 17 percent jump from two years ago, but still far below the 1994 record of 2,200. Sinnott said the fluctuating population is due to an irregular cyclical pattern dependent on such factors as winter survival rates and snowfall levels that can drive more moose into urban areas.


"It makes sense that the more moose you have in town, the more people are going to hit them," he said.

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Around here, every year they give anyone who wants it huge salmon. Too bad they weren't more enterprising about produce gluts.


About roadkill, the Natural History Museum in London, where I loved to go to see all the Deities or statues, they of course have a large selection of taxidermied animals, including a platypus. The Victorians used to kill hummingbirds of all varieties and keep them in a large glass cabinet made especially for displaying these beautiful creatures, in their parlors. The museum has a lot of these.


But once a couple of devotee artists and I wnet behind the scenes and met the main sculptor, who makes moulds of dead frogs and such to cast for scenes, and makes realistic birds and other things. Astonishingly real and he showed us how he does it. These days the museum does not accept dead animals unless they are roadkill.

(England in general is really strong about animal rights, and has a very high number, proportionately, of vegetarians.)



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Maybe we Iskcon devotees should stop killing baby cows and drinking their milk to satisfy our carnivorous diet, and just start salvaging roadkill?


[This message has been edited by darwin (edited 01-08-2002).]

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