A man in Alaska saved a young bull moose from what could have been a slow and painful death on Thursday by removing a plastic garbage bag from the animal’s throat. Anchorage resident James West explained in a Facebook post that he was driving past some dumpsters when he noticed the moose acting strangely.
“He was stumbling, chewing profusely, and foaming at the mouth,” West wrote. “As I got closer, I noticed he was choking on the trash bag.”
West said he first thought about calling animal control, which would have been the safest option for both him and the moose. But he was worried the moose might choke to death before help arrived. Only the very top of the trash bag was visible at the time.
“I kind of felt like time was of the essence,” West said, “so I slowly made my way closer and closer to see if I could just get ahold of it.”
This took a fair bit of courage, but the moose didn’t run away or react aggressively, and it allowed West to grab onto the plastic bag. West then slowly pulled bag out of the moose’s throat without hurting himself or the animal.
The moose was relieved, to say the least, and West spent the next hour or so hanging out with the yearling bull in the parking lot. He found a pumpkin (presumably in the dumpster) and fed it to the moose, and “boy was he happy after that,” West wrote. With its tongue hanging out of its mouth like a panting dog, the moose even tolerated a pat on the nose.
The comments on West’s social media post have been overwhelmingly positive, with most people calling him a hero. One person did point out, however, that what he did was extremely dangerous.
“Aww poor creature!” wrote one user. “I’m glad you could help him, but you could have been hurt. He is still a wild animal!”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game—along with most other wildlife agencies—strongly discourages people from trying to rescue stranded or injured wildlife. This can often lead to injuries, and wildlife professionals are much better equipped than members of the public when it comes to helping animals in distress.
It’s also illegal to feed wildlife in Alaska, according to ADFG, which points out that “hungry animals that associate people with food can become dangerous.” This is especially true of bears and moose, the agency says. Bird feeders are one of the few exceptions to this rule—and even then, ADFG asks people to only feed birds between Nov. 1 and mid-March, when most bears are hibernating.
On a road I often drove at the time (in Maryland), I once saw a small white-tail deer butting into a chain link fence, moving a bit, and doing it again. Evidently it wanted to get (back) to the other side. There was a break in the fence perhaps less than 50 yards away, but I was worried it would hurt itself before it got there. So I parked, walked slowly up to it, and from the side took hold of its head gently with both hands, one on each side, pointing it along the fence and walking with it to the break, at which point I let go and it promptly departed.
That was an animal that was in a very single-minded state so that it barely noticed me…and weighed less than I do; I could have wrestled it to the ground if need be; or if it had been tranquilized, even carried it. Even so, I was prepared for it to react and a bit nervous myself (and washed and checked myself for ticks afterward, you never know what they’re carrying).
But I’d be seriously worried about getting that close to even a yearling moose; they have a reputation for often being less than gentle with people, if they’re alarmed or not getting their way or in a territorial mood or who knows what.
So kudos to the guy for caring, but staying alive is good too. 🙂
Great rescue that man did for that moose regardless that he could have been injured by the animal he was trying to help.