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Mamma Moose & Jack

One of the emerging disciplines in veterinary science and medicine is the study of the human-animal bond. As defined on the website of Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, “The Human-Animal Bond is the dynamic relationship between people and animals in that each influences the psychological and physiological state of the other.”  A field that was once centered on the human-companion animal interface, has grown to include production animals and captive wildlife. 

While pursuing a dual doctoral degree (DVM/PhD) at The Ohio State University I was invited to write a brief desciption of my laboratory’s research programs for the Newsletter of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians

As if I didn’t have enough to keep me busy, I started to research the human-animal bond.  At the time there was a paucity of information available on the human-wildlife relations, aside from a few anecdotal resources. As mentioned, traditional studies have explored the relationships between pets and their owners.   I relied on my experiences as a zoo animal keeper and work on cattle ranches for insight into human relations with domestic livestock and “special species.”  I should mention that the human-animal bond is now addressed in the context of the coexistence  of human and free-ranging wildlife as a conservation management tool. 

Today, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes the significance of the human-animal bond and its benefits to people, pets, farm animals, and wildlife and has  instituted policies relevant to such issues.

Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

One case that merits attention is our three year old moose bull, Jack. A popular animal ambassador– Jack has developed a particular rapport with intern Vanessa Gibson, a zoology major at Michigan State University.

Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Jack was brought to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center as an orphan. He had a fractured, right, front leg and a bite wound on his right hip.  Given a 20% chance of survival, Jack was nurtured back to health by Vanessa. She tended to him day and night for three months living in a tent within his enclosure.

Below is a link to a film of Jack and Vanessa shot by Dr. Vic Van Ballenberghe, a noted Research Wildlife Biologist with the US Forest Service in Alaska.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOm1tBUncqQ

Continuing their very special relationship, Vanessa has returned for another summer. Although some have surmised that Jack would not remember her, by looking at the pictures below you wouldn’t suspect that for a second.

Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center


  1. Kelly
    June 4, 2014, 6:46 pm

    Beautiful!!! I hope she moves back and lives in Alaska permanently… Jack would love having her around daily.

  2. anaosegueda559
    coalinga, california
    January 30, 2014, 2:11 pm

    I love how you treat your animal . their aren’t much humans out here in California like that . 😀

  3. Greg
    United States
    January 11, 2013, 11:44 pm

    A great manipulation of a wild animal. If you nurture a moose, or any other animal from birth, this is how they act. It’s interesting, but not real. They are wild animals and this only shows how we can train them to be pets. Some day this moose will revert to its natural instinct and hurt her. I hope it isn’t true, but wild is wild. Best of luck to you.

  4. Jes
    January 7, 2013, 8:20 pm

    A face that a mom could love

  5. kashif anwar
    June 16, 2011, 3:30 am

    dear sir i want to join the Alaska Wildlife ,please help me i,ll be very thankful to u 4 ur kindness .thanks ,
    best regard,s .

  6. Alice Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP
    Hermosa Beach, CA
    May 29, 2011, 11:00 pm

    Dear Jordan,
    As a past president of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians (AAH-ABV) and as Editor-in Chief of its Newsletter, it warms my heart to know that your contribution to our NL sparked your interest in the the human-animal bond as it applies to free-ranging wildlife. Yes! People experience enrichment when they enjoy feeding wild birds and enjoy viewing deer and other range animals from their yards, during walks or hikes or camping or on safari or diving in the ocean. Society does share a human-animal bond with free-ranging wildlife and their environment. Yes! now scholars of the AAHABV have described and do address and describe the bond that humanity shares with free-ranging wild animals. This “Bond” is the glue that motivated your brilliant veterinary and Ph.D. career in wildlife management and conservation. This special “Bond” needs more study and more descriptive contributions to fully describe the need for the beneficial coexistence of man and free-ranging animals especially as the planet deals with encroachment of habitat.

  7. Abby Gibson
    May 24, 2011, 10:14 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to recognize the relationship Vanessa has with Jack. We think they are both pretty special also and always take joy in the Jack stories Momma Moose tells.

  8. Tony
    May 23, 2011, 3:37 am

    Excellent article. I have met Vanessa in Alaska 3 years ago while working on a 3 month project. It was the year when Jack was brought to the Center. I personally saw how she took great care of the baby moose and I was impressed.
    Above all I would say that we became good friends. She is an amaizing young Lady, with a tender and caring heart.
    I do miss both of them: the Mamma and the Moose 🙂 I do miss Alaska.

  9. Jordan Schaul
    May 23, 2011, 3:19 am

    Forgot to mention that “Jack the Moose” can be found on Facebook. He has his own page. You can also join the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center’s page.

    Harrison Ford took his picture with Jack and so can you.