Officials euthanize yearling moose after hit and run accident in Grand Lake

A yearling moose beside her mother in Grand Lake. This photograph was taken days before the yearling moose was followed by a car on March 24. This frightened the animal, causing her to run, then get hit by another car. She was euthanized due to her injuries.
Jayne Schaeffer/Courtesy Photo

Part of the joy of living in Grand County is being able to live amongst wildlife. Community members stepping outside or glancing out their window might spot a fox jumping in the snow, or a moose peacefully meandering through a meadow.

In Grand Lake, residents grew fond of a mother and baby moose who called the area home. The pair could be seen nestling in the snow, or sometimes wandering down the road. Residents respected the animals and gave them their distance – until an incident on Friday, March 24.

Grand Lake resident Diane Spargo had enjoyed the presence of these moose in the neighborhood. When she spotted the peaceful pair, she often snapped photos of them from a safe distance. On March 24 around 4:15 p.m., she saw the yearling near her home.

“I was in my living room and saw her coming through the snow by our deck. I snapped a couple of quick pictures, then went to put on my shoes,” Spargo told Sky-Hi News. “By the time I got outside, she was gone.”

Spargo was concerned by the yearling’s quick departure.

“She’s been around our neighborhood – her and her mother – for months. We loved watching her and everyone fell in love with her,” she said. “… I went to look for her to make sure she was OK.”

She stopped to talk to her neighbor, who told her that the yearling was scared by a car following her down the road. The car pushed the moose down US Highway 34 towards County Road 4.

This type of behavior can be dangerous for both the animal and unsuspecting drivers.

Spargo’s neighbor told her that he saw the yearling “high stepping it” and that she looked pretty startled because he had “never seen a moose go that fast on pavement before.”

Eyewitnesses in the neighborhood say that a small, gray two-wheel drive car was driving behind the moose by about 20 yards. Despite the moose’s stress, the car didn’t stop following her.

No residents Spargo spoke to recognized the car chasing the moose. Since it was spring break, there is a possibility the driver could have been a visitor. 

The yearling was also particularly vulnerable to cars that day because her mother was gone.

“You can see she’s just a baby and I felt so bad. Her mama had just left her,” Spargo said. “It’s that time they leave their baby, their yearling, and go have their new ones.”

The yearling possibly missed her mother, because she became more friendly in the neighborhood that week, going near pet dogs. Spargo added that she had never seen the yearling get that far away from the neighborhood until this incident, so she must have been especially frightened.

The yearling’s venture away from her home ended in an accident, and around 8 p.m. on March 24, it was hit by a car on Highway 34 at mile post 9. Spargo heard through Facebook that the car left the scene. The yearling, badly injured, struggled to get away from the road and into the snow.

As soon as it was light out the next morning, Spargo went out to the scene.

“This poor little thing is suffering and it laid there all night. That makes me as mad as the guy that chased it,” Spargo said.

She stayed with the yearling and contacted Colorado Highway Patrol for help. The Sheriff’s Office and Parks and Wildlife officers responded to the scene.

“I didn’t stay around because it was breaking my heart, because she tried to get up a couple times,” said Spargo.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the moose had to be put down by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on March 25 because of her injuries. Grand Lake residents still don’t know who hit the moose, or who initially followed the moose, causing it to run towards mile post 9.

In Colorado, it is a misdemeanor to harass wildlife, including from or with a motor vehicle. This is punishable by $200 fine and an assessment of 10 hunting license suspension points.

In some states, it is also illegal to hit an animal and drive away from the scene. While this isn’t illegal in Colorado, if the animal is still alive and by the road, the best course of action is to contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife or Colorado State Patrol. Officials can then put the animal out of its suffering.

“The whole thing has been hard. First, for someone chasing it and then for no one reporting it being hit until I was able to find her the next morning,” Spargo wrote to Sky-Hi News. “There is no reason she should have had to spend the night on the side of the road, frightened and in pain.”

Spargo added that she hopes people can become more aware of how to live with wildlife to minimize stress, injury, or even death.

“First of all, don’t chase them and for Lord’s sake if you hit an animal, say something,” Spargo said.

The mother moose and yearling as a car waits for them to cross the road a week before the yearling was killed. Drivers waited for 20 minutes for the pair to safely cross.
Diane Spargo/Courtesy Photo

Live and Let Live

It’s good to remember that humans are in wild animals’ territory, not the other way around. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has also shared how human can coexist peacefully with wildlife.

– Do not approach or touch wild animals. 

– Do not feed wild animals. In Colorado, feeding big game animals is illegal because it puts wildlife health and safety at risk. Those in violation are subject to fines, and even worse, could cause the animal to become sick and die.

– Enjoy wildlife from a safe distance. 

– Keep your dog on a leash and on trails.

– Keep your distance, if an animal changes its behavior, stops eating or seems nervous at your
presence, it’s time to back away.

– If you find a wild animal that appears sick or injured, leave it alone. Call the local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office and talk to a trained wildlife officer for guidance.

Grand County residents can report sick or injured animals by calling the Parks and Wildlife Hot Springs Office at 970-725-6200. For after-hours emergencies, call Colorado State Patrol’s Kremmling office at 970-824-6501. 

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