Regulatory

Rotorcraft Report: Moose, Helicopter Confront One Another

By Staff Writer | April 1, 2007

PUBLIC SERVICE/GOV'T AGENCIES

An MD-500 chartered by the Alaska Fish and Game Dept. was charged, struck, and disabled by a full-grown, 800-lb moose March 3. It happened in the wilderness region of Gustavus, about 50 mi west of Juneau, the state capital.

According to Doug Larsen, a regional supervisor for the Wildlife Conservation Div., the helicopter and pilot had been contracted from Juneau-based Temsco Helicopters to assist in a study of moose migration. "Our purpose was to recapture a tagged moose," said Larsen, who described it as a routine procedure meant to track migration, herd condition and other factors critical to the survival of the species. Once recaptured, the biologist was to gather information on the animal’s condition, then release it. Only something went wrong.

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After being shot with a tranquilizer fired from a rifle, the moose, who had not yet felt the full effects of the drug, grew agitated at the helicopter, which had remained low in order to coax it into open land. Without warning, the moose charged the aircraft and struck it, causing moderate damage to the tail rotor. The pilot and biologist were not injured, but the female moose was seriously injured.

"The animal’s jaw was nearly severed," explained Larsen. "It’s unfortunate, but we had no choice but to euthanize it on the scene."

Temsco Helicopters said the damage is still being assessed, but so far, it appears to be confined to the tail rotor blades.

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