Moose dies after jumping from parking structure in Colorado ski town

John F. Russell
Steamboat Pilot & Today
A young moose died Sunday after jumping from a parking structure in Steamboat Springs.
Andrea Schoonover/Courtesy photo

On the same day that Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced that two orphaned moose had found a new home, wildlife managers were reeling from news that a young bull had died after falling from a parking structure in Steamboat Springs.

“It happened pretty quickly,” David Rehak Suma, Parks and Wildlife district wildlife manager, said of the incident that occurred Sunday at 2 p.m. “I got a call from dispatch from a party who was concerned that there was a moose on the roof of the parking garage.”

Rehak Suma said he had hoped to arrive in time to keep the public back and give the animal the room it needed to find its way safely off the structure, which is located between the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas and the Steamboat Grand on Mount Werner Circle.

“A witness said that people were crowding it, trying to take pictures of it and everything,” Rehak Suma said. “Then, sure enough, the moose jumped off the roof there on the north side and fell to its death.”

He said a couple of staff members from the nearby hotel were pointing over the edge of the parking garage to where the moose had landed on the ground below. The witness also reported a handful of people — Rehak Suma estimated roughly five to 10 individuals — had been there before he arrived, taking photographs and, perhaps inadvertently, blocking the animal’s exit path from the garage.

“A lack of proper behavior, for whatever reason, ends up being bad for the animals,” said Rehak Suma of the situation. “I’ll tell you that usually when there is a wildlife-type instance, it is because somebody made a choice that they didn’t have to make that wound up with something bad happening.”

Rehak Suma said the moose that jumped was a young bull, probably last year’s calf. He said it’s normal for moose to travel quite a bit and that it likely had recently separated from its mother and was looking for a new safe area.

Tips from Colorado Parks and Wildlife

During late spring and early summer, cow moose can be aggressive while their calves are young, and they can view dogs as predators or threats. Calves are born in a 3-4 week period from the end of May to mid-June.

Colorado’s moose population is healthy and thriving, with an estimated 3,000 statewide. CPW encourages hikers to avoid thick willow habitat in riparian areas, where moose like to eat and rest, to decrease chances of moose interactions. CPW urges dog owners to keep their dogs leashed while hiking, and give moose extra space on trails.

When it comes to viewing wildlife, Rehak Suma urges people to keep their distance. He said one technique people can use is to extend one arm straight out and give a thumbs up. If their thumb completely blocks their view of the animal, it’s a safe distance — but if they can still see the animal, they should step back.

“We hope that people will be more compassionate to the plight of the wildlife knowing the winter that we’ve had,” Rehak Suma said. “We always want people to be vigilant, we always want people to keep their space, but we hope that in a year like this people will be more compassionate and recognize that these are stressed-out animals and life is hard for them. The more that we encroach on them, the harder the life gets.”

Orphaned calves find home

The news of the bull moose’s death comes less than a week after a mother moose died, of what is believed to be natural causes, in Steamboat’s Brooklyn neighborhood, leaving a pair of calves to fend for themselves. The good news is that those calves were captured, taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center in the Steamboat Springs area, and now will be transferred to the CPW Foothills Wildlife Health and Research facility.

“Part of the decision process is that we had calves on the ground with a mom that isn’t around, so what can we do?” Rehak Suma said. “We had approval for our local wildlife rehabilitator to take them in, and that would be a perfectly fine solution until they grow up. Then the question is, what do you do from there?”

He said reintroducing a bottle-raised moose can create a dangerous situation when the calves reach adulthood.

“These are moose calves that were nursing,” Rehak Suma said. “When you raise them with a bottle, they develop unnatural attachments to people. When they are 30 to 40 pounds, that is perfectly nice and cute, but by the time they become adults, and you try to release them back out into the wild, especially in a state like Colorado that is so populated, it is dangerous. The animals will seek out that human attention and adult moose approaching people is something that can end very quickly and very poorly.”

The mother moose was found dead in Steamboat’s Brooklyn neighborhood last Thursday. Wildlife managers were able to capture the calves and have since been weighing limited options.

The CPW Foothills Wildlife Health and Research facility provides a place where the moose calves, which could weigh several-hundred pounds each by summer’s end, will be able to live out their lives. He said the facility brings in students from nearby schools to teach them about wildlife and provides training opportunities for CPW personnel.

“For the most part, the facility is not open to the public,” Rehak Suma said. “They’ve got school groups and things that will come through and it’s nice for the students to be able to see the animals and for the CPW to make connections with the community.”

It’s not ideal, but Rehak Suma said considering the situation the calves were in, this is the best possible outcome.

“They will live out their lives as mainly educational animals,” Rehak Suma said. “But raising moose in captivity is very challenging, and while we will do everything we can to help raise them, there is no guarantee they will make it.”

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