Strange Laws in Alaska

Alaskans are used to being viewed as a strange sub species of genus Americana. They realize Outsiders picture Alaska as a weird place where the sun seldom shows, ice covers the land from end to end, moose freely roam city streets, children have to snowshoe to school summer and winter and residents live in igloos. In point of fact only one of these beliefs holds the weight of actuality.

Alaska does possess a collection of strange facts, however. For instance, Alaska’s land mass equals that of several Lower 48 states combined. (Texan: “If the ice in Alaska were to melt, Texas would be the largest state.” Alaskan: “If the ice in Alaska were to melt, Texas would be a lake.”) Alaska extends farther west than Hawaii, a circumstance that made it necessary to adjust the International Date Line to keep the entire state within the same day.

This and other points of strangeness about the Great Land exerts an effect on its populace, most especially its lawmakers. State and local legislative bodies have passed an interesting collection of weird and wonderful laws since Alaska became a possession of the United States. Here are a few examples of the more bizarre of these decrees, possible explanations in the parentheses:

If you are in possession of a valid hunting license and special permit, you can shoot a bear in Alaska. It is against the law, however, to awaken a bear in order to photograph it. (Far too many bear maulings occur as it is, without some cheechako incurring its wrath by disturbing a bear from its slumber.)

It is against the law in Fairbanks, Alaska, to offer alcoholic beverages to members of the moose population. (The unpredictability and downright cantankerousness of a moose increases exponentially with the state of its intoxication.)

Except in courthouses, post offices and libraries, you can carry a concealed pistol in Alaska without a permit, but the slingshot law forbids you to carry a slingshot concealed on your person without the proper permit. (Lawmakers apparently reasoned that while Alaskans carry and manipulate deadly weapons responsibly, the safe use of slingshots requires the operator to undergo accredited training.)

It is against the law for a moose to walk on the sidewalk anywhere in Alaska. (In Alaska as elsewhere, legislators enjoy passing obviously unenforceable laws to test the credulity of their constituents.)

You run afoul of the law if you push a live moose out of a moving airplane, as conceivably might occur if you shoot a moose, load it on your plane and it regains consciousness after you take off. (If it gets too crowded in the cockpit due to a rambunctious moose, you’re expected to exit the plane yourself and let the moose bring it in for a safe landing.)

It is illegal to string a wire across any road in Alaska. (The need for this law arose when two kids with tin cans and a wire attempted to phone each other from opposite sides of a street and an Alaska Trooper on a motorcycle plowed into the wire, losing his helmet, his motorcycle and his dignity.)

Do not inhabit a recreational trailer being towed behind a truck or SUV. Such activity is prohibited by law. (Actually, this law provides an instance of extremely well thought-out legislation and probably has saved countless lives, considering the astounding number of RVs one encounters on any given trip on any given road between May and October.)

Some of these peculiar laws even have sourdough Alaskans scratching their heads in disbelief. But if you wish to find real amusement in the nature of laws fabricated by Alaska legislators, try making sense of the state’s hunting and fishing regulations. Most Alaskans never go hunting or fishing unless accompanied by a lawyer. On a recent charter boat expedition, a woman from Washington state brought three lawyers on board with her, one for each kind of fish she hoped to catch.