Growth of moose herds brings added human conflicts
A moose herd that began with a dozen animals transplanted to Colorado’s North Park 35 years ago has expanded to an estimated 2,300 moose scattered across the state from Creede to North Park.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, moose have taken advantage of the abundant habitat to surge to unexpected numbers, but as biologists and citizens are learning, it’s hard to stop a moose once it gets started.
“Moose are essentially pioneering on their own,” Parks and Wildlife big-game manager Andy Holland said. “Available habitat, and unbrowsed habitat, is probably the main factor in why they are able to expand.”
Not unexpectedly, that surge in moose numbers has led to a number of conflicts with people who find themselves face to face with an unpredictable and powerful animal weighing up to 1,000 pounds or more.
The latest human/moose incident came June 4 near Grand Lake when a cow moose charged and knocked down Sue Rogers, 60, of Grand Lake, after her dog barked at the cow moose and its calf.
Rogers was taken to the hospital after being trampled by the moose.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for the victim in this case, and we hope she has a quick recovery,” Area Wildlife Manager Lyle Sidener of Hot Sulphur Springs said in a story in the Winter Park Sky-Hi News. “This is a reminder that approaching these large animals can in certain situations be dangerous.”
The Sky-Hi News said a witness reported the woman and her dog approached to within 10 feet of the cow and its 20-day-old calf before the moose charged Rogers and knocked her down.
Wildlife officers subsequently euthanized the moose and her calf.
“People should remember that approaching wildlife often puts the animal at risk as well,” Sidener said.
The latest incident wasn’t the first human/moose encounter in Grand Lake that turned out badly for both parties.
Several run-ins are reported each year, and in Sept. 2010 a moose charged and knocked down a 3-year-old.
In 2006, former Grand Lake Mayor Louis Heckert, 92, died from injuries suffered when he was knocked down and repeatedly butted by a male moose.
In this latest encounter, the moose, and later its calf, had been seen around Grand Lake for several weeks and usually drew a crowd of onlookers, some of whom got within 20 feet of the moose to take photographs.
Several people said the woman had been warned not to approach the moose with her dog, but this is another example of people not realizing wildlife is just that, wild.
“Yeah, it’s really too bad she got hurt,” Parks and Wildlife Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde said, “but she’s lucky it wasn’t worse. That moose could have killed her. Moose can be very dangerous, especially when they have a calf to protect.”
To that moose, a dog is a coyote or a wolf, and the only unwitting victims of the incident were the moose and her calf.
“We had to put it down, that’s our policy, and now we’re taking flak over it,” Velarde said. “Do I like it? Nope. Do my men like it? Nope, but we’re consistent in this when it comes to human health and safety.”
The Parks and Wildlife website, wildlife.state.co.us, offers information about viewing and co-existing with moose and other wildlife.