Newborn wildlife arrives in the Chugach National Forest
By Julie Buehler
Special to the Turnagain Times
Photo courtesy of Marlene Buccione
A cow moose and her new-born calf stroll down Boretide Road in Indian. Hikers and residents alike should use caution at this time of year when maternal instincts of wildlife can spawn aggressive behavior.
It's my favorite time of year. The visitor center is bustling with activity, flowers are blooming, and new animal babies are being born. If you are in the right place at the right time you might get the opportunity to watch the first few steps of a gangly new moose or watch a mother nanny tending to a day old kid. As adorable as these new critters may be, one needs to exercise caution around these new mothers.
Here in Portage Valley, staff and visitors have reported several new moose mothers with calves. Each year, approximately 120,000 moose are born in the state of Alaska; half of these will make it to through first year. Typically, calves are born end of May through early June and weigh about 32 pounds. Calves are born a red-brown color and are up walking and nursing within a few hours after being born.
Through the summer months, calves will lose their reddish tint, increase their weight by ten times, and the males will develop tiny antler nubs. Moose calves are usually weaned in the fall when it is time for the mother to breed again. If you happen to come across a mother moose with her young, stay clear! New mothers are known to defend their young vigorously. Many people spend time thinking about bear behavior but the fact remains that more people are injured from moose in Alaska every year than from bears.
Speaking of bears, another new arrival tromping through Portage Valley are black bear cubs. Weighing in at a mighty five pounds, cubs begin to emerge from their dens in early May. The new cubs will stick with mom and spend the rest of the summer and the next winter learning life skills. As with moose, black bear adults will protect their young. Use caution when crossing the path of a cub, mom is usually close behind!
Other new arrivals in the area are young mountain goats and dall sheep. Both these animals are very similar from afar, but are very different up close. Baby mountain goats (kids) are born mid May and will usually join a group of other adult nannies and kids. New kids are the size of a snowshoe hare and are able to keep up with mom soon after being born. Unlike the moose or bear, female mountain goats will not give birth until they are four years of age. Dall sheep give birth from late May to early June and will remain isolated for a few days until the new ewe is able to travel. Rams and ewes will resemble each other until they are three years of age.
Whether you are out for a hike, traveling along the Seward highway or taking the dog for a walk, opportunities to view new arrivals of wildlife are abundant. These young animals are adorable from a distance, but please remember to use caution because maternal instincts know no bounds and you would not want to experience these instincts first-hand. Be safe this summer.