EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
During his two years of duty here as a vehicle operator with the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Airman 1st Class Patrick Garber has spent more than a hundred hours behind the wheel of the buses transporting dozens of distinguished visitors to and from appointments and meetings.
Recently Airman Garber had a day to remember, but not because he was transporting the Secretary of the Air Force and his staff to another meeting during their visit, but for the actions he took to prevent a possible tragedy from occurring right before his eyes.
While he was driving through a residential area, a moose began crossing the street. The moose noticed two young children walking along the sidewalk and made movements indicating to Airman Garber and the Office of Special Investigation special agents along for the ride that it was apparently charging toward the children.
"I saw the moose crossing the road and I thought 'ok, just another moose' but then as he came around from behind another car (the moose was cutting through vehicles in line to drop children off at Anderson Elementary School) I noticed his ears were back, his hair on its "hump" was standing up (classic signs a moose is angry or afraid) and he was in a trot and heading straight for the children," Airman Garber said.
In a split second, Airman Garber had to make a decision.
"I began honking the horn and moved the bus forward to get between the moose and the children," he said.
At the same time, Airman Garber noticed another vehicle pulling forward from the other direction which confused the moose even more. Airman Garber said one of the OSI agents hopped off the bus and made his presence known to the moose, which was finally distracted enough to head away from all the commotion. The children continued their morning walk to school.
Sightings of moose are common to Eielson, especially in the early spring and late fall, and cows and calves are often seen nonchalantly grazing on vegetation in housing areas. They are generally shy animals and usually run in the opposite direction when encountering humans.
Aggressive behavior toward humans is more common when cow moose are protecting their young in the summer or during the mating season in late summer or fall.
However, no matter what time of year, people must always remember that moose are wild and dangerous animals and should be treated with respect.
The following are moose safety tips from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Web site on moose safety:
Never feed a moose. It is dangerous, and as of July 1, 1993 it is illegal to feed moose in Alaska, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to one year in jail.
Never get between a cow and a calf. Don't walk toward a moose if you can avoid it; try to remain at least 50 feet away.
Never throw anything including snowballs at a moose.
Always keep dogs under control or leave them at home (A dog may chase after a moose and suddenly find the moose chasing it. Naturally the dog runs back to its owner, bringing the moose along with it.
Avoid moose that are in a fenced area or between houses; they may feel cornered.
Try to get behind a tree if a moose charges. You can run around the tree better than it can.
If a moose attacks you, get down on the ground, cover your head as well as you can, and stay very still. Don't wave your arms after you are on the ground.
If a moose charges, another option is to raise your hands over your head and spread out your fingers. Hold your arms still, don't wave them. Sometimes the moose will think that you are another animal bigger than he is.
If you see someone about to be charged by a moose, making a loud noise or honking might distract the animal long enough for the victim to take evasive action. Don't run up to the moose.
Remember moose kick with their front hoofs as well as their hind hoofs.
For more information about wildlife safety in Alaska, visit www.wildlife.alaska.gov