Beware Of Falling Moose

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 13th, 2008

moose cliff

Photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers

Okay, I’ve heard of falling frogs and fishes, of course, but a falling moose? This story comes to me thanks to the watchful eyes of Richard Hendricks, who has been looking up as well as around!

I expect jokes to begin appearing about this incident in all kinds of places. For the moose, it was no joke. But strangely, it wasn’t the first time that it happened there, either. Read on.


We’ve seen the highway signs that warn of falling rocks, and we’ve seen the ones that warn of moose crossing.

Now Howard Peterson of the Alaska State Troopers wonders if we need a new sign:

Watch for falling moose.

A swing-shift trooper based in Girdwood, Peterson was cruising the Seward Highway the night of Feb. 2 a couple miles north of McHugh Creek when something big and black fell from the sky, landing about 20 feet from his car.

“Falling rock!” he thought, ready to steer clear if it bounced onto the highway.

When the rock didn’t roll or shatter, Peterson’s brain came up with a crazy image:

“Falling moose?”

An adult moose, wandering rocky terrain more suitable to the Dall sheep that populate it, plunged to its death from the tall cliffs that hug a highway famous for its scenery and wildlife.

The animal landed on the side of the road just a few yards in front of Peterson, who figures it fell 150 feet, maybe farther. He snapped a couple of photos and called one of the charities that salvage road kill to tell them there was a moose available at Mile 113 .

Then he started wondering what happened. Did the moose jump?

“How would you say it — moose-icide? He probably thought he was the only moose, with all those sheep around,” Peterson said.

More likely, though, something spooked the moose and it fell. It was windy that night, Peterson said, so maybe a gust startled it.

Or maybe the moose merely misstepped.

“I’m sure the moose didn’t jump,” state wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott said. “They occasionally have bad days like the rest of us. They slip and fall. Maybe he was reaching for a branch and the snow just gave way.”

In his years on the job, Sinnott has seen many moose die in many ways. He’s heard tales of them breaking through ice and drowning, jumping off railroad bridges at the sound of a train, falling off small banks. Once he saw the remains of two bulls that died together during a rutting battle when their antlers got hooked together by a single piece of barbed wire.

But a plunge from a tall cliff? Sinnott doesn’t think it happens often.

In 1995, a moose calf slipped off a cliff and fell 100 feet to its death in nearly the same spot, but flying moose remain an oddity.

As for Peterson, he’s been a trooper for five years and has seen lots of things fall from cliffs while on patrol — rocks, snow, mud, cars.

Cars? Yes, cars: “I used to work in the Valley,” he said, explanation enough.

But he always figured moose held steadfastly to the earth.

He knows better now.

“They can fly and they can land,” he said. “Just not very well.”“Falling moose nearly takes out trooper: Animal plunges to its death off Seward Highway cliff,” ~ by Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, February 12, 2008.

If this happened in 1995 and 2008, from “nearly the same spot,” you have to wonder if the building of this highway cut through an ancient route at Mile 113, which is still programmed into some moose? It is a Fortean mystery.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

17 Responses to “Beware Of Falling Moose”

  1. Richard888 responds:

    Hearing of large animals such as moose fall from cliffs is disturbing. What does that charity do with road kill by the way? Donate it to pet food factories?

  2. ETxArtist responds:

    I’ve driven that highway, a lot of moose quickly appeared in my path, but they were all traveling horizontally!

  3. stratterbrain responds:

    I don’t know about Alaska, but here in Virginia road killed deer that are aquired by the Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries are donated to homeless shelters. We also have a “hunters for the hungry” program that donates legally killed game to food banks for the less fortunate.

  4. shumway10973 responds:

    I’m going to be sending this one up to a friend in Alaska. I knew not to honk at them (especially certain times of the year), but never thought people would have to be looking up.

  5. olejason responds:

    Most roadkill charities clean the animal and give it to needy families, orphanages, etc.

  6. Ceroill responds:

    I was going to make a joke about the moose trying to fly, but I like your idea better, Loren.

  7. plant girl responds:

    That poor moose. What an awful way to go. I can see how a large animal like that can get spooked and slip off the cliff.

  8. kittenz responds:

    Here in eastern Kentucky nearly all the highways are cut through mountains and so they are flanked by high, benched cliffs. The local term for them is “highwalls”.

    Several years ago, a regular client showed up with her aging, ailing cocker spaniel, uncharacteristically two hours late for her appointment. The woman was very shaken as she described what had occurred to make her late:

    A full grown deer had plunged off a 400 foot highwall and landed on the her car as she was coming into town! Luckily for her it landed on the hood. The impact shatterred her windshield too. Fortunately traffic was light and the bizarre incident did not cause a pileup on the highway; however, the woman’s car was totaled. She escaped with a few bruises and scratches and her dog in the backseat was unhurt.

    Witnesses told police who investigated the accident that the deer was running full tilt and just leaped right off the highwall. The game warden later said that the deer was probably being chased by dogs.

    Maybe something similar happened with these moose: maybe they were being hunted by wolves or harassed by dogs that chased them toward the cliff and they couldn’t stop or turn in time to avoid falling to their deaths. After all, that is one of the ways that people used to hunt ungulates.

  9. kittenz responds:

    I forgot to mention, although it probably goes without saying, in the incident I described, the deer died on impact.

  10. red_pill_junkie responds:

    I was also going to make a joke, but after seeing the photo, I’ll refrain because it would be tacky.

    I just hope the poor animal died instantly.

  11. cryptidsrus responds:

    This thread is tinged with irony for me, since I’m almost done rereading my battered copy of THE BOOK OF THE DAMNED by Fort.

    I wonder what he would make of this.

    I can hear his sarcastic, inquisitive “voice” now…

    “Fall? I think not!”

    BTW, If one hasn’t read any of Fort’s book, one should.

  12. dogu4 responds:

    Great story.
    I’m very familiar with that stretch of the Seward Highway and have hiked that Mc Hugh Creek and frequently driven past to admire the wildlife and scenery (including belugas, dall sheep, and the tidal bore). The simplest explanation is that it slipped and fell but it reminded me of story where Charles Sheldon the great naturalist, collector and writer, one hundred years ago this year, spent the entire winter on the north flanks of Denali. He details an day in his book “A winter in Denali” with an amazing story, where in the midst of a short cold day in mid-winter (due to the oblique angle of the sun’s descent in the high latitudes, dusk in that time of the year may come early but it lasts a surprisingly long time) he hiked into the rocky ridges that are exposed by the strong winter winds and where his main interest, the dall sheep, would gather to nibble on the plants there. On his return along a narrow path along a sheer rock wall, he was saw a lynx which had postioned itself into a rocky crevice where the sheep would have to pass by and waited, conserving its dwindling energy, as do all predators in winter. Eventaully a group of sheep led by a large ram approached and as it passed by the lynx pounced on the ram. Using its claws it clamped onto the head of the sheep between the massive curled horns and began to bite the face and eyes of the ram as it tried to dislodge the lynx by wildy thrashing its head. The ram, in obvious distress, stuggled but lost its footing and plunged to the rocks and snow some distance below with the lynx still in place, snarling. Shelton, later found the site and said the ram, its neck broken, had provided the lynx with a fine mid winter meal, and quite possibly the difference of life and death for the lynx and its kind.
    Wolves, lynx and wolverines all inhabit that area I wouldn’t be surprised if one of their strategies had some role in the moose’s demise.

    Oh…and Alaska has a couple of ways to distribute the game killed. With moose along the roadways, locals can sign up on a list and when it’s your turn you have to be ready to fully harvest the carcass in a responsible manner…cleanly with no waste and no gut piles near the road. If you miss your chance you go back to the bottom of the list. In Talkeetna they teach a little class where you can learn how to do it properly and even help send the wildlife biologists the stuff they need to better manage the population. It can be cold and hard nasty work, but hey, a thousand bucks worth of meat on the highway is the kinda windfall we should be willing to work hard for.

  13. Anakin0993 responds:

    That’s not something you see everyday…..

  14. charlie23 responds:

    I’m not sure if two incidents over a span of 13 years could be indicative of an “ancient route”. More than likely there’s just good browsing at the top of the cliff and some topographic feature that makes a specific area more dangerous than others.
    Now, if herds of them went over the cliffs on an annual basis…. (Lemmoose?)

  15. kolobe responds:

    Probably chased by a predator of some type, wolves or feral dogs most probably as they do not hunt from ambush but physically chase thier prey.

    Often I get stories of buck particularly impala being chased by african wild dogs or feral dogs doing the strangest of things. One impala was reported to have run into a camp site and sit between hunters at the fire until the hunters chased the wild dogs away and it had recovered sufficiently to walk away (this incident was widely reported on). During its sitting (hiding) period it showed no fear for the hunters, fire or for the shots that were fired into the air to scare the wild dogs.

    On our game farm we often pick up carcasses of impala that have run into fences and broken thier necks trying to escape mainly feral dogs and poachers with thier dogs, these are fences they know are there and know they cannot get through. Survival instinct maybe, inbred fear of pain, suicide to prevent a slow painful death by being devoured alive maybe, its difficult to say. With dogs, african wild dogs and feral dogs they usally tear apart or devour the prey alive and do not kill quickly, with woves the same can happen.

  16. CryptoGoji responds:

    Its a new species of moose, Lemming Moose! Was an autopsy done on the moose to see if it was sick? Blind maybe, because thats a tall cliff, looks about twenty to thirty feet, maybe more.

  17. red_pill_junkie responds:

    kolobe wrote:

    One impala was reported to have run into a camp site and sit between hunters at the fire until the hunters chased the wild dogs away and it had recovered sufficiently to walk away (this incident was widely reported on).

    OMG! Are you sure it wasn’t Ace Ventura in disguise?? 🙂

    Seriously, what a great story.

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