Chokecherry tree likely killed Spenard moose calf
A moose calf that died outside a Spenard home this week, causing its mother to guard its carcass for days, has been removed after state officials say it was probably killed by eating from a poisonous plant.
Members of the Alaska Moose Federation visited the 3200 block of Wyoming Drive Friday to pick up the calf, which was first reported Tuesday afternoon. They had hoped to give it to the Alaska Zoo, so that the carcass could be put to good use.
However, officials soon noticed a strange odor and dried foam on the calf's nose.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff say the calf likely died of cyanide poisoning from a chokecherry tree. A U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet says chokecherries can poison livestock, despite being used as a "common ornamental" in some parts of the U.S.
Another plant in the same genus, European bird cherry or Mayday trees, were banned for local sale by the Anchorage Assembly earlier this year. A pamphlet from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service describes them as decorative but invasive plants which can occasionally poison moose.
AMF’s Don Dyer took the calf’s carcass to the city dump, where it had to immediately be buried with a bulldozer to prevent eagles from eating its meat.
“A lot of times [dead moose have] eaten something that's poisoned them and the meat is poisonous as well, not safe for human consumption,” Dyer said. “We don't even use it for trappers to use as bait.”
The moose federation is asking people to check their yards for chokecherry trees, remove any they find and plant other trees instead.
According to UAF, special tools and herbicides are often necessary to completely kill chokecherries. Similar safe species include Ussurian pear, serviceberry, crab apple and Hawthorn trees.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described chokecherry trees as European bird cherry trees.