The mighty moose calls Summit County home
An animal once foreign to Colorado has made a home in Summit County. Moose have been migrating into the area over the past 10 to 15 years, forming healthy populations in and around towns.
These mammals may make for great wildlife viewing, with their long legs, broad shoulders, expansive horns and protruding snout, but residents shouldn’t assume they are as friendly as Bullwinkle.
The 1,000-pound herbivores aren’t afraid of humans or dogs, and they will charge, wildlife experts say.
“When it comes to moose, there is a certain thing to remember — they don’t consider humans to be a threat,” said Mike Porras, a public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“They will attack — and aggressively,” he said. “Especially if we are talking about a moose with a calf.”
Every year, wildlife officials receive reports of moose-related attacks on humans and dogs, including about one or two every year in Summit County, district wildlife manager Sean Shepherd said.
Dogs have been injured or stomped to death in recent years, he said. Several people have also been injured by moose in Colorado, including one fatality in 2005.
Officials stress three basic rules to follow to live harmoniously alongside local wildlife: don’t feed, don’t harass and don’t approach.
These rules are important not only to protect humans, but also wildlife.
“One of our primary concerns is human health and safety,” Porras said. “Once an animal has exhibited aggressive behavior, that is a threat to human health, and in many cases it results in the death of an animal.”
Until 20 years ago hardly anyone ever saw a moose in Colorado. They were first transplanted to Colorado’s North Park region near Walden for hunting purposes. Since then, moose have thrived and expanded their range. Colorado’s moose population now is approaching 1,000 animals statewide.
A healthy population of moose has also made its way into Summit, Shepherd said.
Moose are usually fine to watch from a distance, he said, but if one finds himself or herself face to face with a moose, it’s best to leave the vicinity.
When a moose is angry it often folds its ears back, and crouches down. If you see a moose do this — run, he said.
“If a moose is charging, try to put something large in-between you and the animal,” Porras added. “If you are physically attacked, fight back as hard as you can.”
Wildlife officials warn residents never to approach a moose, no matter what time of year. However, the animals are especially protective in spring and early summer months as they raise their young.
The animals adapt biologically to their habitat, so when conditions are good, mothers will give birth to twins or even triplets. Twins aren’t uncommon in Summit County, local wildlife officials said. Newborn moose calves have already been spotted in Summit County in the past few weeks.
Some popular hangouts for moose include the Salt Lick Gulch and the Willowbrook neighborhood near Silverthorne, the Miner’s Creek area above Frisco and the Peak 6 to Peak 9 areas around Breckenridge.
Officials strongly recommend hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts keep their eye out for moose in these areas, and keep their dogs on the leash.
“Moose are tolerant of people but that doesn’t necessarily mean they like them around,” Shepherd said.
Moose aren’t fond of dogs either. Wolves are their primary predator, and the uncanny resemblance can equate to trouble for Fido.
“A domestic dog is very akin to a wolf,” Shepherd said.
“If people have their dogs off-leash and it approaches a moose, the moose won’t run like a deer or elk,” he said.
Instead, it may choose to go after the dog.
“The dog may run back to the owner and bring a thousand pound animal back with it,” Porras said.
In addition wilderness safety, drivers are urged to keep a lookout for moose and other wildlife — especially at night. Moose viewing and safety tips can be found at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website http://www.wildlife.state.co.us under the tab “living with wildlife.”
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