Our pajama-clad daughters Gretchen, left, and Heidi Shellhorn had their breakfast interrupted by this Copper River Delta moose that Merle Hanson and I bagged out the road early in the morning back in the days before airboats. Photo by Dick Shellhorn

The days are getting longer, and many a Cordovan has made it through the winter enjoying the bounty of the well-managed nearby Copper River Delta moose herd. 

Little did the first spindly calves that arrived here in the early 1950s via Mudhole Smith’s WWII-vintage DC -3s suspect they would have such a dramatic impact on local dining habits and lifestyles. Ditto for the Sitka blacktail deer, which were transplanted here by boat from Southeast Alaska in the mid-1920s. Rounding up a few abandoned little moose for the transplant probably wasn’t much of a challenge, but catching a fully grown deer proved to be more problematic.

Leave it to a clever logger down in the Southeast Panhandle to figure out how to catch them. He used a dog to chase the deer out on a shoreside peninsula and force them to jump in the water. Then he would row out and lasso them. Surprisingly, once he had them aboard his bigger boat, they settled right down on the evergreen boughs in its fish hold.

What brought all this to mind was news of a mid-sized moose on the Kenai Peninsula that somehow ended up in a startled homeowner’s basement.

On the morning of Nov. 20, 2022, the moose fell into the basement of a Soldotna home through the egress window of an access well, likely while reaching for some browse on a nearby tree.

Kenai’s emergency services were contacted and I would have loved to have heard that call. 

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“Hello- what is your emergency?”  “Well, there’s a moose in our basement!”

Captain Josh Thompson of the Central Emergency Services arrived at the scene to direct the rescue operation, which involved Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists, and seven firefighters.

One of the Fish and Game biologists used a dart gun to administer a sedative, then once the moose was calm, the responders lifted it onto a large tarp, carried it down a hallway to the stairs and took it outside. The whole operation took about an hour.

Luckily it was a young moose that undoubtedly was perplexed by the whole operation even in its sedated state. Eventually, it recovered and wandered off.

And no one thought about flying it down to Cordova to join its band of distant relatives, who don’t have to deal with the hazards of urban living.

I bet you didn’t know that the first male moose released on the Copper River Delta was nick-named Kenai.

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Dick Shellhorn
Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at [email protected].