Study shows similarities in illegal moose kills

A 1999 study by the then-Division of Wildlife spanning 21 years (1978–1988) and 277 reports uncovered distinct behavior patterns with hunters who accidentally killed a moose.

The Moose Mistaken Identification database shows 95 percent of the hunters were licensed elk hunters who illegally shot a moose.

Although the hunters were all ages, 33 was the average, which should indicate a level of expertise in hunting.

Apparently the expertise didn’t go so far as to carrying binoculars to make sure of their target.

Wildlife officials say the one thing most illegal moose kills have in common is the hunters failed to use binoculars or scopes.

“We urge hunters to carry and use binoculars where determining their target,” said Mike Porras, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northwest Region. “If all hunters would just follow this simple rule, it will undoubtedly reduce the number of accidental kills of all game, and make hunting safer.”

Because there’s nothing yet to base any decision on, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers are reluctant to say whether their recent efforts to recruit more elk hunters might be one reason for the 11 illegally killed moose reported through halfway through the 2011 big-game season.

But it’s commonly suspected that many hunters go elk hunting without expecting to see moose where moose are found.

And a first-year elk hunter from Pennsylvania or Missouri might not expect to have a moose in the cross-hairs.

Colorado moose may just as likely be found knee-deep in a lily pad-covered pond as traversing the highest passes and everywhere in between.

“Moose are pretty adaptable,” said Andy Holland, state big-game biologist for Parks and Wildlife. “They’ll use lodge-pole and spruce-fir forests and some of the ones we’ve been getting from Utah are fond of the oakbrush country on the Flat Tops and Grand Mesa.

“I’ve even found their shed antlers above timberline.”

Wildlife officers urge any hunter inadvertently killing a moose to report the mistake.

It’s still a $700 fine, but not stepping forward only compounds the mistake.

“If a guy mistakenly shoots a moose and reports it to us, we’ll take a bit easier on him,” said Ron Velarde, Northwest Region manager for Parks and Wildlife. “We want to let people know they can turn themselves in and face reduced charges. We don’t want the moose to go to waste.

“But if they shoot a moose, leave it and don’t tell us, we’ll throw the book at them.”


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