Wildlife officers remove orphaned moose calves from Grand Lake
August 18, 2008
It was the aspen trees that first attracted the cow moose to Cathy Campbell’s property on Grand Lake’s south shore earlier this summer.
The mama moose would bring her young twin calves on visits to the lakeside retreat for a snack from the trees and drink from the lake.
But during her last visit, the mother moose stayed longer.
She laid down by the boat house and rested her old bones while the twins frolicked about.
The Campbell’s never bothered their tenants from the wild, keeping a safe distance. They knew to respect a cow’s fierce protection of her young.
But they couldn’t help but notice this latest stay seemed odd.
All weekend, “the mother just laid there,” Campbell said. “It was awkward, we couldn’t get to the boathouse to use the boat.”
Meanwhile, she said, the twins ate everything they could find on the property, from flowers to leaves.
Monday came, and Campbell was working in the sun room of the cabin when she noticed the mother down by the lake.
“The mother walked across the front of property, then laid down, and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth,” Campbell said.
“She didn’t look good.”
After one final attempt to rise, the moose descended to her side, then exhaled her last breath.
Witnessing the death of the animal through the window, “my son and I just lost it,” Campbell said.
She had already called the Colorado Division of Wildlife to report the moose’s strange behavior.
When District Wildlife Officer Kirk Oldham arrived, it was apparent the twins, a female and a male, were not willing to leave their mother’s side.
Several scare tactics were used, but the twins did not respond.
Finally, it was found that a super-soaker from the boat house would work to displace the twins while DOW officials collected the animal’s body.
It’s believed the mature moose died of natural causes; a necropsy is under way.
Campbell believes the mother moose had known she was sick and purposefully brought her twins there for safety from predators and for easy meals.
“Keeping two twins alive puts a lot of stress on these animals,” Oldham said. “As years go on, it gets harder for them.”
Oldham determined that the calves, born this year, had already been weaned off of their mother.
But by Tuesday, the calves had not attempted to leave the Campbell property.
“They were laying in the grass. I could have reached over and touched them, they were that comfortable with me,” Campbell said.
The DOW officer had also been checking on their progress.
“We batted around the division whether we should be moving them,” he said.
Normally the division lets wildlife alone and monitors it, he said, but in this case, the animals were becoming too habituated to people.
The decision was made to relocate the animals to a secluded habitat where a moose herd is known to graze.
So, the young moose were tranquilized Wednesday and transported to their new home in the wild.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.