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The moose babysitter

Rick Sinnott, an Alaska wildlife official, has made a career of catching bears, corralling geese, and making sure ravens don't eat Pringles.

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On one side of a pair of wire fences, a mother moose is grunting, pushing, and stomping on the small patch of grass where she's paced all night. On the other side, biologists Rick Sinnott and Jessy Coltrane dangle a hook and strap, as clouds of mosquitoes swarm their heads. Wedged in between is a wobbly moose calf.

While residents of the adjacent midtown condominiums look on, Mr. Sinnott and Ms. Coltrane pry open a space and free the calf, then watch its mother dash around the barrier to reunite with it. The animals walk to a neighboring driveway and munch on foliage, nuzzling and keeping close. As moose rescues go, this was a smooth one, says Sinnott, who calls Anchorage "a moose maze with fences."

"She was the most remarkably calm cow I've ever seen," he says. "Usually they'd be thumping on our heads."

It's just another morning in the life of Sinnott, a state Department of Fish and Game biologist who may have one of the more unusual jobs in America. He's part moose therapist, part bear chaperone, part goose sergeant, part ambulance driver for hawks, and – with several poetry awards to his name – he's part James Herriot with a hook and net. In the midst of his moose-calf rescue, an Anchorage woman calls to thank him for shooting a bear. After 36 years of refereeing conflicts between man and beast here in Alaska's largest city, Sinnott may be America's dean of urban wildlife.

"Anytime there's an animal issue, I expect Rick to be there," says Mayor Mark Begich. Indeed, in a local night club's skit about wild urban animals, a parody of "Ghostbusters" went, "Who you gonna call? Rick Sinnott!"

Lean, wiry, and quick with a quip – his office door plastered with wildlife cartoons – Sinnott is a local celebrity. The decades seem to have aged him little, except for some gray streaks in his hair and mustache, and a pouch of stories to rival any bear's salmon cache.


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