Wildlife observers who want to learn more about moose on the loose in the Roaring Fork and Crystal valleys can hear from experts in presentations Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Moose reintroduction efforts in western Colorado will be outlined this week as part of the Naturalist Nights free winter speaker series presented by Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Wilderness Workshop and Roaring Fork Audubon.
The presentation Wednesday will be at 5:30 p.m. in Carbondale at the Third Street Center. Roger Shenkel, a longtime advocate and volunteer on moose reintroduction with Colorado Parks and Recreation, formerly Division of Wildlife, will give the talk.
Stephanie Duckett, a terrestrial biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, will give a presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
She said moose have pushed into the Crystal Valley after a successful reintroduction from Utah onto the Grand Mesa in 2005.
As the population grew on Grand Mesa, moose traveled further east in great enough numbers that they are self-sustaining in the Crystal Valley, west of Highway 133, Duckett said. The moose thrive on mountain shrub and oak brush, which are plentiful between Sunlight Mountain ski area, southwest of Glenwood Springs, to Coal Basin, west of Redstone.
Moose fitted with radio collars are being tracked in the Crystal Valley, and research shows calves have been born there, Duckett said. There’s also evidence that Crystal Valley moose are mixing with Grand Mesa moose, she said.
The moose population isn’t self-sustaining yet in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, according to Duckett. She labeled their appearance an exploratory foray from the Gunnison area.
Moose were reintroduced in the Taylor River area around Almont, between Crested Butte and Gunnison, in lower numbers than at Grand Mesa. Therefore, moose have been slower to establish new territory, Duckett said.
Moose push into new ground when the concentration reaches a certain level. “Young bulls are like teen-aged boys — they tend to wander a little further,” Duckett said. Young cows also are adventurers, she said. How far animals will wander is an individual characteristic, she said.
So far, only a handful of moose have “trickled over the divide” from the Crested Butte side to the Aspen side. Numerous visitors to Maroon Lake have been treated to moose wading in the water. It is difficult to say if and when the moose population in the Maroon Creek Valley and surrounding areas will be self-sustaining, Duckett said.
Moose reintroduction efforts stopped in Colorado in 2007 and have been deemed a success. “Our moose populations are doing very well,” Duckett said.