CPW officials discuss moose relocations to Grand County
March 30, 2017
Earlier this month, state wildlife officials relocated a set of three moose from the Breckenridge area to Grand County.
The move was prompted by reports that a moose had come into conflict with skiers at the Breckenridge Nordic Center. On March 12, Breckenridge police received reports of a moose menacing skiers. Officers responded and found a bull moose who continued to show signs of aggression. Officers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife were then called to the scene.
When wildlife officers arrived they found two additional moose had joined the bull. The three creatures were tranquilized and through great effort moved to Grand County. Out of the three animals, two were moved to the Williams Fork area and the third was moved to the Willow Creek area.
Selecting an appropriate place to relocate moose is based on multiple factors and each different instance is unique. On the relatively rare occasions that moose must be relocated, wildlife officials look to move the creatures to areas with suitable, high-quality habitat that is conducive to long-term survival of the animal. Officials also look for locations far enough away from the original conflict site the animal is unlikely to ever wander back. Factors like local population centers in the relocation area also play a part in the planning process.
The relocation effort was not the first time this year Parks and Wildlife officials have had to relocate a moose. In late February, a moose was moved from the Steamboat Springs area to the Craig area. However, the two recent examples not withstanding, moose relocations, and wildlife relocations in general for that matter, are very rare and something state wildlife officials prefer not to do.
Granby area district wildlife officer Jeromy Huntington explained that wildlife relocation efforts are meant to address public safety problems created by conflicts between wildlife and humans. He pointed out though that relocation efforts address only the symptoms of the problem and not the underlying problems that created the conflicts in the first place.
"Any time we move wildlife, be it a moose or a bear, we are creating a void in that habitat that another animal will move into and fill," Huntington said. "That is the main reason I prefer not to move wildlife. If I move a moose there will just be another one there soon."
Huntington said he prefers to address such conflicts through education and by emphasizing responsible wildlife watching habits.
"There are cases where the only option is to move or euthanize a moose," said Huntington. "If we are down to those options we would support relocating an animal over euthanizing it."
Huntington also highlighted concerns he has about public perceptions of relocations. "My concern is that the public could come to see this as the reflexive response," he said. "I hope the public doesn't' get to the point where they look at relocations as the norm, as the way we resolve these conflicts."
Parks and Wildlife Northwest Region Public Information Officer Mike Porras echoed Huntington's sentiments.
"When a moose is around people that is not an ideal situation," Porras said. "But just because they are in or around a populated area doesn't mean they will be tranquilized and moved. Our officers look at each situation on a case by case basis."
Porras explained moose are considered among the most dangerous animals in the wild, but added they are only dangerous to people if people get too close to the massive creatures or let their dogs get too close.
"Moose are not looking to attack people," Porras said. "But they are not afraid of people. They will stand their ground. That is where the education aspect comes in."
Dogs are one of the biggest factors of concern for wildlife officers regarding moose. Porras said moose naturally view dogs as predators and connect them to wolves. "They don't differentiate a domesticated dog from a wild wolf and they will respond to dogs as if it were a wolf," Porras said. "A moose will attempt to stomp a dog aggressively. The dogs often run back to their owners. That becomes a very serious situation."
Porras said there are approximately 2,500 moose across the entire State of Colorado.