She stood defiant. I hit the brakes of my bicycle then straddled it like she could have almost straddled the bike path. She would have put me in the hospital if it necessary to protect her twin calves. The photograph I took suggests much distance between us but I felt like I could touch her layered brown stomach, feel it heave in stress. Two smaller versions of her trotted across the trail. When she followed them into the spruce forest I pedaled back to the University of Alaska where I am studying this week.
She was the third adult moose I had seen on yesterday morning’s ride on the Anchorage bike paths. She was probably the cow with twin calves I saw last Saturday night when a late afternoon shaft of light set off gold yellow highlights in the twin’s glistening fur.
Less than 100 years ago men started building an American style town here on top of moose browse and bear territory. The animals hang on in the Anchorage Bowl. Moose wander downtown neighborhoods in winter, chomping down garden cabbages and decorative trees. They rest on snow-covered lawns and sometimes become tangled in strings of Christmas lights. Few die from gunshot; more from motor vehicle or train collisions.
Less lucky are the urban bears. I didn’t see one on my bike rides even though a sow and cubs had been spotted often on campus last week.
Bears drawn to the salmon spawning in city streams do ok as long as they don’t develop a taste for human garbage. Those that do, or allow themselves to be seen often in neighborhoods or the university campus are shot. That’s what happened this week to the mother of two cubs that others saw near our dorm. She led them once too often across the campus green spaces. Out of fear that she and her cubs would develop a garbage habit, a state official shot her. They captured one of her children who might now end up in a zoo. The other one is still somewhere in the surrounding forest, alone.