Meet Your Forest: Moose in the High Country (column)
Friends of the Dillon Ranger District
Friends of the Dillon Ranger District (FDRD) would like to extend a great big thank you to all the volunteers with FDRD’s Ski with a Ranger Program 2015-16. Our free on-hill tours took place at Keystone Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort. It was a fun season with plenty of interesting guests from all over. One of the most popular questions was about the moose. Maybe it’s “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” humor or the reality that a moose is so large and majestic, it takes our breath away, moose fascinate us.
Summit County is home to a healthy growing population of Shiras moose, the largest mammal in Colorado. Most are an amazing viewing opportunity; however, the charismatic animals have few natural enemies and are not threatened by humans. Though they are generally passive and curious, their large size and strength makes them very dangerous if approached or provoked, especially by dogs. Because they remember their primary predator, moose will charge at any dog that approaches. In several cases an angry moose has chased the dog back to the dog’s owner resulting in severe injuries to the person. Keep dogs on leashes.
Moose were scarce in Colorado until 1978 when wildlife managers transplanted 12 into North Park near Walden followed by an additional dozen in 1979. Bolstered by the transplant efforts, they have been successfully reproducing and expanding their range, numbering over 2,000 animals across the state today. Moose are the largest member of the deer family; however, they are mostly solitary animals and do not travel in herds. Adults can weigh between 800 to 1,200 pounds, standing 6 feet high at the shoulder. They have dark brown, almost black fur with long gray legs, long heads, large snouts and a distinctive “bell” or “dewlap” hanging from their throat. Bulls grow large, palmated antlers which they shed every winter and regrow each year. Moose can live up to 20 years in the wild. Moose means “eater of twigs” in the Algonquin language, an appropriate name as their main diet consists of willow, aspen and pine trees and woody shrubs. Their long legs allow them to traverse deep snow and willow bottoms in search of food throughout the year. Moose breed during September and October, a period known as the “rut.” Bulls can be very aggressive during this time. Cows give birth between May and June, with twins common in areas with good habitat. Moose are very protective of their calves and will charge aggressively if they feel threatened.
If you see a moose:
Keep your distance — enjoy them with cameras, binoculars or scopes.
If a moose or any wild animal reacts to your presence you are too close.
Never let a dog harass, chase or bark at a moose.
If you sense moose aggression — ears laid-back, hackles raised, licking snout — move away slowly and look for an escape route.
If it charges — run quickly — get behind something large like a rock, tree, car etc.
For more information on living with wildlife contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife or visit http://cpw.state.co.us for more facts and safety tips for living with animals in Colorado.
This excerpt on the moose is from our annually printed Rec Guide, pick one up today at the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District Office across from Target in Silverthorne, along with maps, forest permits and more.
Jasmine Hupcey is the office and volunteer manager for Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more information on the organization and volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.fdrd.org.
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