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Originally published Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Buzzwinkle, moose who wandered downtown Anchorage, killed humanely

The downtown moose with an affinity for fermented crab apples and Christmas lights is dead. Anchorage-area wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott...

Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE — The downtown moose with an affinity for fermented crab apples and Christmas lights is dead.

Anchorage-area wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott killed the aging bull moose known as Buzzwinkle with a shotgun blast after finding him Thursday lying in a lot behind Anchorage Printing, severely emaciated and unable to get up.

The moose was at least 13 years old — a senior citizen by moose standards — with worn teeth and an infected wound on his rump, said Sinnott, who works for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"If he were any other moose, I probably would have shot him sooner. ... He had a good life, other than getting tangled in Christmas lights from time to time," Sinnott said.

The even-tempered moose had popped up sporadically over the years, but it wasn't until he got his antlers tangled in a yard rope swing in November 2004 that he was darted and tagged, becoming instantly recognizable, Sinnott said. Since then, Buzzwinkle had been a downtown fixture, often seen sporting a tangle of Christmas lights in his rack.

Buzzwinkle earned his title — the "most embarrassing nickname ever given to a moose," Sinnott said — in November, after he ate a pile of fermented crab apples in the courtyard of Bernie's Bungalow Lounge. Still tangled in the Christmas lights he'd found in Town Square Park, the moose assumed a disoriented pose as he began snorting steam and staring off into the distance, apparently drunk.

The moose was likely eating the soft crab apples because his teeth were in such poor condition, said Jessy Coltrane, the assistant Anchorage-area biologist. Many of Buzzwinkle's teeth were broken or missing, and the ones that remained were severely worn because of his age, she said. Moose generally live to be between 8 and 10 years old, Coltrane said.

"Whenever you have a moose like that, that is a local landmark, it's sad to see them go," she said. "He was a really laid-back moose. We like to have the calm ones around."

Since earning his name, Buzzwinkle had been filmed walking the streets by the crew of the Discovery Channel's "MythBusters" for an episode questioning whether it is better for a driver to brake or accelerate if a moose collision is unavoidable. The episode has not aired.

The moose is also featured, Christmas lights in his antlers, in the current issue of Alaska Magazine, Sinnott said.

The U.S. Forest Service is using Buzzwinkle's meat, which was unfit for human consumption because of the infected injury, to catch wolverines that will be fitted with radio collars for research, Sinnott said.

With most trapping seasons coming to an end, the only other option would have been to bury him at the landfill, he said.

"That didn't seem like a way for a wild moose to end his days," he said. "Better to be eaten by a wolverine."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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