State looks for small salvage teams for moose roadkill work
Since the Alaska Moose Federation closed up shop in November, Kenai Peninsula charities and organizations have had to get roadkill moose off the highway and into freezers themselves.
It’s been a challenge without AMF’s fleet of trucks and volunteers. And charities say they’ve struggled to get meat to the families and individuals on their lists.
Now, Alaska Wildlife Troopers are looking for small teams of volunteers to sign up online for their roadkill lists. When there’s moose roadkill in the area, dispatchers will call those teams, who will have 30 minutes to respond. Teams can keep the meat they salvage.
Charities will still be able to retrieve moose and distribute meat to families and individuals. But Soldotna’s Laurie Speakman said the teams system takes some of the pressure off the organizations to be the middlemen.
“This is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time, is the individualized program," said Speakman, who was the AMF truck driver on the Kenai Peninsula. She’s known locally as “Laurie the Moose Lady.”
“And I think it will lighten the burden on the charities because they won’t have as many people on their lists needing meat," she added.
Back when AMF was still in business, drivers like Speakman would pick up moose and coordinate with Alaska State Troopers to drop them off to AMF members.
At one time, AMF had a contract with Alaska Department of Transportation to deliver to anyone on the salvage list. In its most recent iteration, AMF was sustained by memberships.
But the nonprofit closed last year, facing a lack of funds from legal troubles and a decline in membership.
That’s put member organizations in a tough spot.
Max Pitts received moose at the Funny River Chamber of Commerce. He said it’s dangerous work without the lights, winch and other equipment AMF had. He’d sometimes field calls in the middle of the night.
"I won’t do it anymore," he said. "And that’s been the problem, just trying to find people that have the ability to go get it.”
He said AMF’s program was valuable. Last year, he said the chamber served 120 people with the moose they received. A lot are elderly individuals and couples in Funny River.
"The other thing is, you can’t leave a dead moose lying alongside the road," Pitts said. "Because it’s going to bring in bears and wolves and then you’re going to have more accidents.”
He thinks the new system will be better than nothing. But said he wishes AMF was still running.
Don Dyer, the most recent executive director for AMF, is trying to sell his fleet of four trucks. He said the organization plans to reimburse charities for their memberships — $500 apiece for peninsula charities. But he can’t do that until he makes the sale.
That doesn’t bother Pitts.
“I wouldn't ask for it," he said. "I know they gave you more value than we paid for. At $500 a year, they're dropping off 10 to 12 moose. That’s going to be somewhere from $40 to $50 a moose, to have it dropped off.”
You can register to be a salvage team on the Department of Public Safety website. The new system goes into effect July 1.