'Sleigh hoof?' Alaska biologist explains this odd Anchorage moose pic
This image was given to me by viewer Becki Grady to be published with the original article on ktuu.com. I don't own the rights to this image.
What's going on in this photo of an Anchorage moose with bizarrely shaped hooves? An uncommon copper deficiency sometimes seen across Southcentral Alaska, explains state wildlife biologist David Battle.
Channel 2 viewer Becki Grady saw the animal crossing Elmore Road as she drove to work Tuesday morning.
"I've lived in Alaska my entire life and have never seen a moose like this," she wrote. "I thought it had been injured until I saw that all four of its hooves were curved like that."
Battle said the copper deficiency causes moose hooves to grow faster than they can wear away. The condition results in an elongated and curved hoof, commonly known as 'sleigh hoof.'
"We see them every so often here in Anchorage and I know sometimes on the Kenai Peninsula," Battle said. "We get reports of them in Anchorage about once or twice a year at best... it's not very common."
According Battle, the Southcentral region of Alaska has low levels of copper in the soil and vegetation that moose commonly eat, which could explain why more reports of the phenomenon are made here than in other parts of the state.
Why don't a higher number of moose in the region display this deformity? Natural selection, Battle said. "When you have a deficiency of a needed mineral in a particular area, some individuals will be more efficient at absorbing it than others."
Battle said there wasn't much known about whether this deformity could put the moose at a higher risk of injury or death.
"Occasionally, the extended hoof will break off on its own and it won't bother the moose but I would expect that if that moose was in a region where it was running into predators - bears, wolves, etc. - it would probably stand a higher chance of being taken down by a predator," he said.