Cow moose killed at Piney Lake near Vail

Scott Condon
Aspen Times

The last day of elk hunting season proved fatal for a moose cow in the central mountains Wednesday.

The moose was illegally shot by a hunter who mistook it for an elk.

“That’s a pretty big mistake, I think,” said Darren Chacon an officer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “He was pretty distraught.”

Chacon, a “roving” wildlife officer who helps patrol the Aspen and Vail areas, said he was on another investigation Wednesday night when his dispatcher informed him that a hunter called in the mistaken shooting of a moose at Piney Lake in the mountains above Vail. “He freaked out, came back into town and called right away,” said Chacon.

The hunter told Chacon he shot the moose as it was bedded down about 80 to 90 yards away from him. The moose and hunter were aligned head-on, so the man said he was not able to determine it wasn’t an elk. He saw antlers and a face, then fired.

The hunter left the moose where he killed it when he left for Vail to call wildlife officers. He reported that a calf had been with the cow.

Chacon said it was impossible to determine what will happen to the calf this winter. It depends on its age.

Chacon found and dressed the moose last night. The meat will be donated to charitable organizations; the hide was taken to the wildlife division’s headquarters. He said the moose was immense.

“It was bigger than any bull elk I’ve ever dealt with,” he said.

Chacon was sharing his story with other wildlife officers gathered early Thursday morning for an unrelated project in the Roaring Fork Valley. The moose meat was in the back of his truck. The other wildlife officers checked it out and lamented the loss of the moose. It’s a prime example of how hunters must be more careful before they shoot, the officers agreed.

The hunter’s name wasn’t released by the DOW pending the outcome of the court case. Chacon said the man, a Vail Valley resident, indicated he would pay the fine. The man, who has hunted for 20 years, also said he may avoid hunting for a while, according to the officer.

Chacon didn’t know the exact size of the fine but he said the hunter was significantly better off for reporting the incident.

This was the second killing of a moose in the Vail area this year, according to wildlife officers. Bill Andree, the officer for the Vail district, estimated there are 18 to 24 head of moose in the Vail area. They were introduced into the Walden area in 1979-80 and have steadily expanded their territory.

No information was available on the presence of moose in the Roaring Fork Valley, although wildlife experts have said they have been spotted in the Fryingpan drainage.

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