This is Sara Komarnisky, PhD student at UBC, currently in Anchorage doing fieldwork with Mexican migrants and immigrants here. One thing about life in Anchorage that is funny and fits very much with clichés about Alaska are all of the MOOSE!
There are moose all over the city, all year, but they are especially noticeable in the fall and winter. They eat Halloween pumpkins and nibble on tree branches in front yards, and I have been prevented from leaving my house twice already due to a moose in the front yard! Moose amble down city streets and park paths, they sleep in deep snowbanks in front yards, and some neighborhoods see the same moose make its rounds day after day. About once a week, an email is sent to my entire university department informing us that there is a moose in the parking lot. One even went inside a local hospital using the automatic doors!! Recently, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game gave permission to a group of conservationists called the Alaska Moose Federation to start feeding the moose, in an attempt to keep them off of roads and sidewalks and prevent collisions and confrontations between moose and people.
Moose are managed by the state of Alaska for “abundance” – that means it’s a state goal to make sure there are lots of moose for hunting and ultimately, for food. Actually, I went to a talk a while ago about bear management in Alaska, and how recently hunting regulations on predators like bears have become more relaxed in order to increase numbers of moose. The idea is that bears prey on baby moose, and limiting the number of bears by increased hunting should lead to higher numbers of moose for local hunters.
Anyway, all of the moose and the politics around it got me thinking about life in a northern city and of human-animal relations. Urban experience always includes wildlife – but usually that means squirrels, pigeons, maybe rats or raccoons. Not moose. Also, I am starting to see how saving the moose is tied up with state plans to maintain high populations of moose for people to hunt and to eat. Finally, moose are a stereotypical but important symbol of life here – one that is taken up by my research participants and that travels with them to Mexico. I wonder what everyone thinks about this. Are there similar large urban animals in other northern cities?