FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — When Cathi Beck walked out the front door of her house Saturday afternoon and found herself eye to eye with a full-grown cow moose, she didn't have time to react.
"I went out the door, turned right and I was looking right into the moose's eyes at that point," Beck said.
Beck had followed her boyfriend, Tony Martin, outside to start their two vehicles, which were parked in separate driveways of their duplex on Palo Verde Drive, just off Chena Pump Road.
Martin, 57, turned left while Beck, 53, turned right. Beck had only taken a step or two when she bumped into the moose, which was hidden in an alcove between the house and the arctic entryway she had exited.
Beck shouted an expletive when she found herself face-to-face with the moose.
That got Martin's attention.
"She doesn't cuss that often," said Martin, who was only 5 or 10 feet away when he heard her.
What happened next took both Beck and Martin by surprise. The moose, which had a broken rear leg, reared up and knocked Beck to the ground.
"It had its right hoof up against my left shoulder and the left one came down on my thigh," said Beck, who is 5-feet-5-inches tall. "It trampled me a couple times before it fell down on top of me and rolled over the top of me.
"All I remember is hooves and legs coming at me," she said. "I was terrified. I thought this was it."
Martin, who turned and snapped a quick picture on his cellphone before the moose reared up, couldn't believe his eyes.
"She was on her back like a turtle when it first knocked her down," he said.
After the moose rolled over the top of her, a dazed and bruised Beck managed to crawl back inside the house.
"Once I got inside, I collapsed and called 911," she said.
Outside, meanwhile, the angry moose turned its attention to Martin.
"It came after me, but I was able to put my truck between me and it," he said. "The hair on that thing's back was standing straight up like a bristle brush."
Martin made it safely back inside when the moose followed him around the back end of the truck.
Alaska Wildlife Trooper Branden Forst and patrol trooper Kamau Leigh responded to the 911 call at 1:45 p.m., just minutes after the attack. They managed to herd the moose away from neighbors houses before Forst killed it with a 12-gauge shotgun slug.
Beck declined treatment from emergency medical personnel, but Martin took her to the hospital to get checked out. She didn't have any broken bones, just lots of bruises. The moose ripped Beck's jeans and broke the skin on her leg, leaving her thigh bruised. She also suffered badly bruised ribs as a result of the 1,000-pound moose falling on her and rolling over her, Beck said.
Both Beck and Martin said the fact the moose had a broken rear leg probably saved her life because the injured moose was unable to support itself while trampling Beck and fell.
"If it hadn't had a broken leg and fallen we'd be looking at a funeral, not a four- or five-hour hospital stay," Martin said.
The moose had been hanging around their house and their neighbors' house for about a week before the incident, Beck said. In fact, just minutes before the attack, Martin said he opened the door to see if the moose was anywhere in sight. He didn't see it because it was hidden in a corner behind the arctic entry.
They could tell it had a broken leg, and at one point, Beck suggested calling the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to report it. But Martin told her it wouldn't do any good because he believed Fish and Game personnel wouldn't do anything about it.
Alaska State Troopers had received a call about the moose the day before the attack but didn't have any troopers available to respond and referred the call to the Department of Fish and Game, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said. "It came in as a moose in a neighborhood that people were concerned about," she said.
Two staff members from Fish and Game spoke with the caller who reported the moose Friday and were told the moose was hanging out in a backyard and that its right rear leg "didn't look right" and there was blood on the snow where the animal had lain, agency spokeswoman Cathie Harms said.
Nobody from Fish and Game investigated because there was no mention of aggressive behavior on the moose's part, she said.
Instead, Fish and Game staff told the caller to monitor the moose and encouraged her to alert neighbors that the moose was in the area, Harms said. They told her to call troopers during the weekend if it appeared the moose was fatally injured, she said.
The fact that nobody from Fish and Game investigated the situation, even though the moose was only about one-quarter mile from Woodriver Elementary School, is not uncommon, Harms said.
"We don't have enough staff to respond every time someone reports a moose in a yard that's injured," she said. "A call that there's a moose in a yard close to the river anywhere near town is pretty normal.
"If it had been a call about an aggressive moose near a school, that would be a different thing," Harms said. "That's not the story we got. The report we got was a potentially injured moose, but there was no indication it was a fatally injured moose."
Fish and Game personnel don't like to kill an injured moose unless the animal can't survive on its own, and moose with broken legs have on several occasions survived and produced offspring, Harms said.
But given the dense residential area they live in and the fact there was an injured moose in close vicinity to an elementary school left both Beck and Martin questioning Fish and Game's policy.
"Why wait until somebody gets hurt? It doesn't make sense to me," Beck said.
Martin added, "In a residential area so close to a school they should at least have come out to investigate."
Harms said the agency gets dozens of reports each winter about moose lingering in yards around Fairbanks.
"If they find a place with quite a bit of browse they may stay in that area for a very long time, days or weeks," she said. "Their goal in life is to spend as little energy as possible.
"If you see a moose browse for an hour and then lie down for four hours, that's normal."
Spring is the most dangerous time of year for moose vs. human encounters because moose are running low on energy reserves and are easily provoked, Harms said.
"In the fall, they're loaded with fat reserves, and they'll run away," she said. "In the spring, they're running low on energy, and they know running could tip them over the line. They tend to stand in one place and fight rather than run away."
That's why people should never approach moose or let their pets approach moose, Harms said.
Signs that a moose is irritated or about to attack include having its ears laid flat, head lowered and the hair on the back of its neck standing up, she said.
If a moose approaches displaying any of those characteristics, or even if it doesn't, you should back up and give it space, Harms said. If possible, get something between you and the moose, such as a tree, bush or vehicle, she said.
"If a moose starts to rear or stomp, get under something," Harms said. "Try to protect yourself as much as you can. It's a very, very dangerous situation."
Running also is an option that should be considered, Harms said.
"You don't run from a bear, but you do run from a moose," she said. "Just make sure you can get to where you're running to."
Had Beck time to run away from the moose, she gladly would have done so, she said.
"It happened so fast," she said. "I didn't do anything other than walk out the door, turn and boom there it was. I didn't do anything to provoke it.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com