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Grand Mesa to celebrate ‘Moose Day”

Colorado's largest mammal is establishing a self-sustaining population on the Grand Mesa. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO DIVISION OF WILDLIFE.

Large ungulates thriving in various parts of Colorado; see some video clips of moose in Summit County at the Summit Voice YouTube channel

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the Grand Mesa moose herd at 150 animals and growing, The Colorado Division of Wildlife and residents of the area have teamed up celebrate the big critters with a day of their own.

Saturday, July 31, is Grand Mesa Moose Day, with moose viewing information, presentations about moose biology and moose history, presentations on how biologists transplant and track moose, and even a puppet show, all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the U.S. Forest Service visitor center atop Grand Mesa on Highway 65.

“Moose sightings are always fun for people and they’re becoming more common on the Grand Mesa as the population grows,” said Trina Romero, Colorado Division of Wildlife Watchable Wildlife Coordinator. “This event will teach people safe ways to see the moose and some great facts about moose in Colorado.”

Grand Mesa Moose Day sponsors include the Colorado Division of Wildlife, US Forest Service, The Moose 100.7 and the Grand Mesa Scenic & Historic Byway.

The Grand Mesa is the world’s largest flattop mountain and is located east of Grand Junction. Visitors can access the Grand Mesa from Highway 65, which links Interstate 70 in De Beque Canyon with Highway 50 near Delta. The visitor center is located on top of Grand Mesa.

Moose have historically been found on the Grand Mesa in small numbers but a re-introduction effort started in 2005 by the Colorado Division of Wildlife boosted the herd. The moose population is expected to grow to around 450 animals. The moose transplant and educational efforts about the moose have been funded by Colorado sportsmen through hunting license fees and by the Colorado Chapter of Safari Club International through member funding and through the organization’s annual raffle of a moose hunting license.

Shiras moose are Colorado’s largest wildlife species, with adults weighing 800 to 1200 pounds and standing 5 to 6 feet at the shoulder. They are one of only two mammals deliberately introduced to the state (the mountain goat is the other).

Moose were first introduced into North Park in 1978. Coloradans fell in love with the ungainly animals—with their long heads, long legs and huge snouts—and asked for more. In 1986, some moose were moved into the Laramie River drainage and in the early 1990s another moose population was established near Creede. Later, moose were established in Middle Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and South Park.

Native, or not?

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer as to whether moose are native to Colorado or not. Some wildlife biologists suggest they never lived here until they were brought in by the division of wildlife.
Other historic records suggest they were common in the state, but that that were hunted to near-oblivion by both Native Americans and an expanding population of settlers. Moose make an easy target compared to deer, elk and antelope.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Randy Hampton addressed the question in a comment thread at the Craig Daily Press:

  • “There is considerable debate about whether moose are native to Colorado or not. Some scholars have suggested that moose were probably quite common in higher-elevation willow habitats (like the Flattops) when there were few people in these areas. They believe that moose were likely hunted out by early tribes and settlers because moose are large animals that don’t run from people (like deer and elk) and provide a lot of meat. So those individuals state that moose were likely here in larger numbers but eventually only survived in inhospitable places like Canada and northern Minnesota where the mosquitoes are as big as the moose (and people don’t spend much time).
  • Our knowledge of moose is limited by historical record and unfortunately early tribes didn’t keep extensive wildlife records other than some cave drawings (which do depict moose-like critters). We do have a photo from the Denver Historic Society of the 1896 “Festival of Mountain and Plain” in Denver which clearly shows a moose on a parade float with an elk, a fox, a coyote, etc. Diaries from early land managers like the first Superintendant of the Battlement Reserve (now Grand Mesa National Forest) also make mention of “a very few moose” around 1900.”

In addition to the North Park herd, the state has also established populations around Creede and Lake City. The division doesn’t use tax funds for the relocations. The funding comes from money raised by hunting licenses and other special programs. Moose are among the most popular “watchable wildlife” species, ranking up there with bighorn sheep, Hampton said. Watchable wildlife is considered an economic benefit to the state, and limited moose-hunting also helps keep the cash-registers ringing in some of the state’s most rural areas, where hunting is a big part of the economy.

More moose information here: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/Profiles/Mammals/Moose.htm

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