Wildlife encounters on the rise as snow piles high
March 4, 2014
FRASER/WINTER PARK — As snow accumulations grow, public lands and wildlife officials are reminding those in the backcountry to watch out for moose and other wildlife on trails.
Heavy snowfall makes it difficult for the animals to travel, so they turn to packed roads, groomed trails and even railroad tracks to get around. Representatives with the U.S. Forest Service Sulphur Ranger District, the Grand County Sheriff's Department and the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife said they received reports of moose encounters on County Road 8 and Water Board Road (F.S.R. 128) near Fraser and the popular Lakota and Idlewild trailhead areas near Winter Park.
"That doesn't mean there aren't moose elsewhere having the same issue," said Reid Armstrong, public information officer with the Sulphur Ranger District. "It's a little alarming to hear of this many close calls."
Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office in Hot Sulphur Springs said he received a report of an injured calf moose on a snowmobile trail near Water Board Road late on Saturday afternoon. He investigated the area and found the calf on Sunday afternoon with two broken legs, and had to put the animal down. Huntington suspects the calf's injuries came from snowmobiles "pushing" the animal, trying to get it to move off trail.
"He may have been trying to run, fell in the deep snow and broke front legs, or his injuries were possibly caused by being hit," Huntington said.
While no human injuries have been reported so far, Huntington said he also received calls from snowmobilers trying to pass moose on trails, then getting charged by the animals. In one case, a moose rammed a snowmobile while the driver ran to safety.
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"They have this expectation that moose will leave and get off the trail," he said. " But they'll make a defensive stand and try to protect themselves."
Huntington advises snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and other backcountry travelers to give moose plenty of space. Ideally, travelers should either turn around or allow the moose time to wander off. Those caught harassing wildlife can be charged and fined.
"Our biggest message is to get the awareness out to snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, everyone really, to expect to see moose on trails given how much snow we have," Huntington said. "The last thing I want is for someone to get hurt."
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.