by Hank Nuwer

Moose in Alaska are everywhere. You can’t escape them.

                  When my wife Gosia and I take our favorite daily stroll through the University of Alaska’s splendid botanical gardens, we keep a wary eye out for the critters who come out of the woods hoping to break into a fenced-off area with apple tree saplings.

                  Thus, on a lovely Saturday morning, my wife and I decided to go for a joyride in the low mileage Subaru Outlander we bought five days earlier to replace one of our two 2008 Chevy Uplanders.

                  “I wish we could see a moose today,” I said as we began the scenic four-hour drive to the Canada border.

                  “Not on the road,” she said. “Maybe in the forest or in a pond.”

She explained that she read online that a Polish man and a moose lay dead on a highway east of our cabin in Poland.

“It just happened,” she said.

We went on to enjoy the day. We stopped at the tiny library at Delta Junction as we frequently do because they always have book giveaways. This day the library disposed of some 200 Western novels. They had no library stamp inside them, meaning this had been a donation from a patron.

I came away with three Westerns by Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, and a 1961 gem by Elmore Leonard, better known for his mystery novels.

A sign in the library advertised a garage sale.

“Of course, we have to go,” said Gosia who has never been to a garage sale without finding something we’ll sell ourselves one day at a garage sale.

In fact, we came away with starter bowls of chives, cilantro, and basil for ten bucks. Then we stopped at a city park for a sandwich and apple we’d packed at home.

Our next stop was at our 15 acres between Tanacross and Tok, Alaska. I had purchased the land many years ago for a cabin that never got built. Now we were displeased to see signs that some persons unknown camped on the land as a clubhouse.

We especially hated seeing the scorched earth where they had built campfires. Today, Smokey the Bear fire danger signs rea “high.”

Gosia dismantled the rocks and dead stumps prepared for another campfire. We then stopped in Tok to pick up additional “No Trespassing” signs at the Three Bears Trading Post.

Then we went off for a wonderful Saturday drive near the Canada border. The weather was just short of 70 degrees. White snow on the mountain tops glistened. We spotted a darting badger—but no moose. The new Subaru Outlander seemed to purr.

A little after 5 p.m. we started back. Already in May it’s light out nearly till midnight.

At 7:23 p.m., a big bull moose stepped out some bushes and on to the Richardson Highway.

I swerved and braked. Instead of just running hard, the bull jumped. Our new car clipped his rump. As the windshield crumbled and covered Gosia with glass splinters, I looked in the passenger side mirror, expecting to see the moose limp away. I saw the impact had ripped it off the door.

“Two feet more left we would have been safe,” I said to Gosia.

“Two feet more right, we would have been dead,” she said while dialing 911.

We spoke to a helpful dispatcher and then an Alaska State Trooper. They promised to send officers to look for the moose, but in all that God’s Country, finding it likely was impossible.

This same day. two men in Homer, Alaska encountered a charging moose cow as they tried to take photos of her calves. She killed a 70-year-old male resident.

Just before 10 p.m., we reached home and put the battered Outlander in the garage. On the ruined hood, we found a brown patch from the moose’s butt cheeks.

“Do me a favor next drive,” Gosia said. “Don’t wish again to see more moose.”


Hank Nuwer, former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner managing editor, won the Alaska Press Club’s 1st Place Award for Best Column 2023. Article first published in the Winchester News-Gazette.