DOW transplant moose to Flat Tops |

DOW transplant moose to Flat Tops

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado, CO
Submitted Photo

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Two years ago the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources teamed up to re-establish a moose population in the Grand Mesa National Forest by relocating a moose from an overpopulated area in Utah.

This winter both divisions are again joining forces to transplant between 15 and 20 moose to the Flat Tops Wilderness east of Meeker in Rio Blanco County, with hopes of an additional 15-20 to be transplanted the following year. The goal of the Flat Tops Moose Transplant Project is to establish a self-sustaining, breeding moose population on the Flat Tops for future recreational purposes.

“The main reason for the transplant is to provide additional hunting and viewing opportunities for people,” said DOW biologist Darby Finley.

According to CDOW spokesman Randy Hampton, moose were not as rare of a sight in Colorado over 100 years ago as they are in parts of the state today. Populations were depleted by early settlers of the area as hunting moose provided large quantities of meat and the animals were fairly easy to hunt.

“Moose were very prized for hunting,” Hampton said.

Hampton said there are records dating back to the early 1900s speaking of moose spotted in the Battlement Reserve which is now the Grand Mesa National Forest, near Grand Junction.

“Historically we know that there were moose in that area,” Hampton said.

All through the northern stretch of Colorado, moose populations were thought to be prevalent at one time but have been scarce to nonexistent in some areas like the Flat Tops area north of Glenwood Springs.

“We’ve already have a small resident moose herd of probably less than a dozen animals in the White River National Forest,” Finley said. “But this project will fill in that void to have a more contiguous moose population in the northern part of the state.”

For the past 30 years, the DOW has re-established moose populations to much of the state. Starting in 1978, the DOW relocated moose to the North Park area near Walden, from Wyoming. Currently, the moose population for the north central region of the state, including North Park (about 700 moose) and Middle Park (about 300), is estimated to be about 1,000 strong, according to Hampton. He also estimated that the state’s moose population is around 2,000 animals.

“In 1991 we had so much success with the initial North Park population that we established a moose population near Creede,” Hampton said. “That’s our Rio Grand population of moose.”

The Rio Grand population is estimated to have grown to around 400 animals. Then, nearly 14 years later, the DOW relocated some of the Rio Grand population to the Grand Mesa National Forest to establish a healthy population there. And it’s proven to be very successful and the Grand Mesa population is between 120 and 150 moose, according to Hampton. In 2006, the DOW was notified by the UDOWR that they had moose in a part of the state that were overpopulated and needed to be relocated.

“They wanted to move some moose, so they called us and asked us if we wanted some,” Hampton said. “And we said, ‘you bet.'”

In recent years some of the moose population have made their way as far as the Roaring Fork Valley and the Flat Tops, Hampton said.

“We do see moose in the Flat Tops now,” Hampton said. “They do move, they look for new territory and habitat. They kind of spread out as they grow.”

The current project received $105,000 in auction and raffle funding. Finley said a date for the transplant had not yet been set because it has to be coordinated between the U.S. Forest Service, CDOW and the UDOWR. However, Finley expected it to happen sometime in January or February of 2009. The moose will be captured via a net dropped from a helicopter, processed by the DOW, which involves taking blood and other biological samples, marked with ear tags and collared for tracking purposes, and then transported to Colorado by trailer.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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