Moose on the loose, so steer clear |

Moose on the loose, so steer clear

Special to the DailyThese people out front of the Silverthorne Recreation Center were getting a little too close to a visiting moose last year.

When moose and bears start showing up near homes, officials start getting worried.

Not because the wildlife is there – humans in the High Country live in the animals’ home, afterall – but because often, humans don’t treat the beasts like beasts.

“We’ve had multiple incidents in Willowbrook with moose,” Silverthorne Police Chief Mark Hanschmidt said. “There are three or four moose wandering around the neighborhoods (there).”

None of the moose have shown signs of aggression, even when people approach far too close for comfort for those who know what the animals are capable of. But there’s never any telling what will set a mamma or bull moose off, sending them charging at a bystander, Hanschmidt said.

And when a bear shows up in Dillon Valley, as it did Thursday morning, it’s not something to approach closely for pictures – which is what officials witnessed.

“The wildlife is out and it’s great to see it. I’m happy people are aware and seeing all these animals, but they don’t realize it’s dangerous,” Hanschmidt said. “They are wild animals. They need their space. People assuming that they’re not dangerous and can walk right up and take pictures are wrong.”

Hanschmidt remembers when he was walking his dog one night in Willowbrook about five years ago. A female moose, unprovoked, approached and put her head down to charge.

Before that, a man in Grand Lake was stomped and killed by a moose.

“They are dangerous. People need to be aware and have respect for wildlife,” Hanschmidt said.

Moose are common near Silverthorne Town Hall, meandering through the parking lot. They show up at Rainbow Park, near the Silverthorne Recreation Center. They cross Highway 9 and wander through the Target parking lot, making their way between the Blue River and riparian habitat outside of town.

No injuries have been reported yet, but that’s what Hanschmidt is worried about.

May and June are the prime times for the cows to be birthing their young, and they are often extremely protective of their calves and have been known to get aggressive when they sense any sort of threat.

“You never know what they’re going to do,” he said. “My best advice is for people to be aware and not be in a position to wander into a bad situation. This is their habitat, and they were here long before we came in and took it over.”

The name moose came from the Algonquin Indian word meaning “eater of twigs,” according to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. The most common place to find moose is where plenty of brush is available to nibble.

Their long legs help them traverse deep winter snows and thick willow habitat. Until about 20 years ago, moose were rarely seen in Colorado, but successful reintroduction measures have made them a relatively common sight in fall and spring, when they are breeding and birthing, respectively. Other times, they go mostly unnoticed because they spent time in heavy, dark cover in willow bottoms and forests – typically seeking refuge in willow, aspen, pine and beaver pond-type habitats near water.

They have few natural enemies in the wild, so are typically very tolerant of humans – more so than other big game species. They’re also curious, so not only will they allow humans to approach closer than most game permit, moose will wander close themselves, even looking into windows.

Still, they are wild. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife have the following guidelines for living around and interacting with moose:

-Keep pets away, because they can cause moose to get aggressive.

-If threatened by a moose, stay calm; don’t run away. Talk and make your presence known while slowly backing off in the direction you came.

-Avoid animals that are behaving belligerently or abnormally.

-Avoid sneaking up on a moose, whether on purpose or by accident on a trail.

“Caution and common sense go a long way in preventing potential problems with moose,” parks and wildlife officials say.

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