Laurie Speakman is seen here updating a moose crossing sign in Soldotna, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo courtesy Laurie Speakman)

Laurie Speakman is seen here updating a moose crossing sign in Soldotna, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo courtesy Laurie Speakman)

Winter drivers beware: moose are out and about

Moose tend to congregate along the roadside in the winter months.

As winter approaches, bringing with it shorter days and hazardous weather conditions, Alaskans are reminded to drive carefully and watch for dangers on the road — namely, grazing moose.

“Moose are dark-colored animals and, with no snow yet on the ground for contrast, seeing them at night can be next to impossible,” Alaska State Trooper Captain Rick Roberts said in an Oct. 3 post on the Troopers Facebook page.

Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge John Morton said that moose tend to congregate along the roadside in the winter months for two main reasons: the roads being plowed make them easier for calves to navigate, so the cows will bring their offspring to graze, and the salts used to keep the roads from freezing provide a tasty snack.

This year, the Swan Lake Fire burned more than 160,000 acres of the Refuge, with much of that being moose habitat. Morton said that although there might be a slightly higher concentration of moose in the areas that weren’t burned, drivers should not expect any significant uptick in roadside moose sightings as a result of the blaze.

“They might struggle a little bit this winter, but there’s still plenty of food out there for them,” Morton said. “It’s not like it’s a 160,000-acre desert.”

While driving around the central Kenai Peninsula, motorists are likely to spot one of nine roadside signs that display a running tally of the number of moose killed on peninsula roadways since July 1. As of Tuesday, that number was at 65.

The signs were last updated on Oct. 10, and Laurie Speakman with the Alaska Moose Federation said that the current number is already higher — closer to 80 or 90.

Speakman and her father update the signs every three months, and she said on Tuesday that this October she has seen a higher number of roadkill incidents than normal.

“The busy months tend to be November, December, January and February,” Speakman said. “But this October I’ve done about 15 pickups myself, which comes as a surprise.”

Speakman said that not only is the number of roadkill moose higher this October, but she has also picked up an unusually high number of bull moose. All but two of her pickups this October were bulls, Speakman said.

Speakman guessed that an extended rutting season for the moose meant that bulls are still chasing the cows around — and sometimes that can mean chasing them across the road.

Speakman also noted a high concentration of pickups on the Kenai Spur Highway in between Kenai and Soldotna, something she would not have expected given the proximity to human activity and the current road construction in the area.

Speakman, known locally as “Laurie the Moose Lady,” has been picking up roadkill moose with the Alaska Moose Federation on the peninsula since 2012. Her organization helps deliver the roadkill to approved charities that process the animal and give the meat to families in need.

The process works like this: if someone hits a moose while driving, they should call 911 and report the accident immediately. As emergency vehicles respond to the scene to provide medical attention to the driver and any passengers, wildlife troopers will contact one of 37 charities on the peninsula that have signed up for the roadkill salvage program. The charities are responsible for picking up the moose, and if they do not have the equipment necessary to transport the animal they call the Alaska Moose Federation so that Speakman or one of her other drivers deliver it to them.

AMF does not have a contract with the state, and Speakman said they have to rely on donations and sponsorships from the charities to cover their expenses.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game keeps track of the number of moose killed on the roads each year, and Wildlife Technician Kurt Strausbaugh said that Speakman and the Alaska Moose Federation are an important part of recording the roadkill data for the peninsula.

“Laurie’s a great asset to the community,” Strausbaugh said.

Fish and Game tracks the number of moose killed from July 1 to June 30. The number for 2018-2019 was 238, 232 for 2017-2018, and 262 for 2016-2017, Strausbaugh said. The average for the Kenai Peninsula is about 250 moose-vehicle collisions per year, according to Fish and Game’s website.

Advice for motoristsReduce driving speeds at night and during adverse weather conditions to allow for more reaction time should an animal run into the road.

Scan for wildlife on both sides of the road and along corridors and medians.

Look for additional animals that may cross after the first one — cows are often accompanied by calves at this time of year.

Watch for highway warning signs marking well-known moose-crossing areas.

Increase distances between vehicles to allow for greater braking distances and reaction time.

Watch for flickering headlights in oncoming traffic that may be caused by an animal crossing in front the vehicle.

More in News

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Joel Caldwell shows off the new Tecnam Traveller on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Aviation has since added two more Tecnam Travellers to its fleet. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Aviation adds 3rd plane to commuter service, readies for busy summer schedule

Kenai Aviation plans to increase its schedule to include 18 flights a day running seven days a week

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Kelley Cizek, right, speaks as Jason Tauriainen, Patti Truesdell and Penny Vadla listen during a special meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s school board in Soldotna on Monday.
‘They deserve better than this’

School board passes budget with broad swath of cuts, including pools, theaters and some support staff

The Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska House passes budget with roughly $2,275 payments to residents, bill goes to Senate

The bill also includes a roughly $175 million, one-time increase in aid to school districts that would be paid according to a funding formula

The Kenai River flows near Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. The Riverfront Redevelopment project will impact much of Soldotna’s riverside areas downstream to the bridge. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna riverfront redevelopment planning moves forward

Soldotna City Council on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a project manager to shepherd the Riverfront Redevelopment Project

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Corey Cannon, who plays baseball as part of Soldotna Little League, speaks to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna on Wednesday.
Soldotna Little League receives donation for facility repairs

The city owns the fields, but the Little League leases the land and is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities

Most Read