Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are well aware of the public’s concerns about an injured moose in Silverthorne.
They said on Wednesday, April 2, that the young calf’s best chance for survival depends on residents keeping their distance.
“Wild animals, especially moose, are pretty tough and they can recover from some pretty intense injuries,” said CPW district wildlife manager Elissa Knox. “However, if it gets stressed or pushed out of the area by people and dogs getting too close, that’s only going to aggravate the injury.”
The calf moose in question was spotted Sunday with his mother by passersby near the Blue River in Silverthorne. The calf appears to have a broken or dislocated rear leg above the hock, Knox said.
CPW officials have been observing the calf on and off since Sunday, Knox said. Although it’s clear the calf has sustained an injury, Knox said the upside is it is eating, drinking and there don’t seem to be internal injuries or external trauma.
However, residents who have found the injured moose question why CPW officials aren’t doing anything to help it.
“(Parks and Wildlife) was contacted and they said they can’t do anything about it,” said Susan Fiske, of Dillon Valley. “Boy, it just seems like something could be done. Poor baby moose.”
Local resident Joan Anderson said she bumped into a Parks and Wildlife official when she first saw the injured moose and was shocked when she was told nothing could be done.
“I talked to a (Parks and Wildlife) person that was there when I saw the poor little thing and she said there’s nothing that can be done,” Anderson said. “Really? I just don’t believe that.”
Aside from the obvious danger of trying to separate a cow from her calf, Knox said medically treating game simply isn’t something CPW officials do.
Even if CPW officials could separate the cow and calf, Knox said moose are not like domesticated pets.
Should officials figure out how to medically treat the calf, it would need to be housed somewhere until it recovered. Then it would need to be reunited with its mother somewhere in the wild.
“Right now we’re going to leave him alone, keep an eye on him and see how he does,” Knox said. “We don’t fix deer and we don’t fix elk, but if this calf makes it through the critical period, there’s no reason why his leg shouldn’t heal.”
Should the calf’s leg heal, he may have a limp the rest of his life, Knox said. But, that doesn’t mean losing the leg is an automatic death sentence.
“If his leg doesn’t heal, there’s still a good chance he can live a long life with three legs,” Knox said. “In my career, I’ve seen numerous deer and elk surviving in the wild with three legs.”
What gives the calf a better shot at survival, should he receive the space he needs, is the fact that moose have only one natural predator — the wolf. There are no reports of wolves living in Summit County, Knox said.
“The only things moose have to worry about are cars, harassment from dogs and people getting too close,” Knox said. “Dogs are the biggest trigger for aggressive behavior, which is why we need to make sure we keep our dogs away from the calf, as well.”
The final point Knox wanted to stress is the protectiveness cow moose exhibit toward their calves — which only is heightened in times of distress.
“The cow can probably sense her calf is not 100 percent and she’s going to be even more protective than normal,” Knox said. “Moose are not afraid of humans and they can be dangerous animals whether they’re hurt or not. We don’t want people getting too close, and we don’t want the cow to hurt anybody.”