Menacing moose moves into courtyard at Steamboat Springs apartment complex, causing concern for some residents

John F. Russell
Steamboat Pilot & Today
A moose's nose is covered in snow as it tromps through feet of powder near Frisco in January. Recently, a moose has moved into the courtyard of a Steamboat Springs apartment complex and has caused safety concerns.
Clint Giberson/Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The center courtyard at Mountain Village Apartments is normally a place where residents can walk their dogs or visit with neighbors as they make their way to the parking areas. That was before a moose moved into the area for a few days last week.

One resident in the apartments said the moose has been lunging at people as they make their way through the courtyard, causing concern because the pathways that crisscross the area are frequently used by residents, children and pet owners.

The resident reported that several neighbors had even reached out to the Steamboat Springs Police Department’s dispatch but were told there was little that could be done.

“We understand this is moose territory and the ski mountain has made life hard for them especially during this heavy winter,” the resident wrote in an email to the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Friday, March 31. “But for the moose to linger like this has been nerve-racking.”

Other residents said having the moose in the courtyard for a couple of days last week did not disrupt their daily routines, and they added that seeing moose around is expected when you live in a mountain community like Steamboat Springs.

“There’s very little that we can do regarding a moose. Essentially, all we do is try to make sure that we keep people away from it, but we don’t have any means or methods to move it along,” said Sgt. Evan Noble of the Steamboat Springs Police Department. “We generally don’t respond to those calls unless the moose is being aggressive toward people. That’s something that we usually just have wildlife respond to and handle.”

David Rehak Suma, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, explained that trying to get a moose to move can be tricky and, in most cases, doesn’t really resolve the problem.

“It’s a little bit like passing the buck,” Rehak Suma said. “If you do scare it out of one neighborhood, well then, it’s probably just going to go to another one. So there is kind of a futility there.”

By Monday, April 3, the moose appeared to have left the area, but Rehak Suma said people should be aware there is always a possibility of encountering wildlife in a mountain community, and it’s best to be prepared. Rehak Suma believes that there are currently at least a dozen moose living in the area.

“We do have quite a few other moose that are in and around town, so I don’t want to give anybody a false sense of security just because they might not be around that moose to think that they’re not around any of them,” Rehak Suma said.

He said that right now wildlife such as moose, deer and elk are at the point of the winter where they may be weeks, or even days, away from starvation, and the animals are looking to conserve energy wherever they can.

“Especially with this winter being what it has been, we’ve had more than a typical amount of moose and elk hanging out on roads, driveways and really anywhere that they’re not going to be in 4 or 5 feet of snow,” Rehak Suma said. “Right now in particular is the time they’re really trying to get a reprieve just anywhere that they can save a bit of energy. Not walking through snow or maybe finding shelter from the elements is pushing them towards more human development.”

Rehak Suma cautioned people to be vigilant and aware of moose and elk when they are near and try to stay out of what he called the animals’ “safely bubbles.” He also encourages residents to make noise so the animals are aware of a human presence.

“More often than not, they are around and we just don’t realize it,” said Rehak Suma. “So that is when we kind of burst their comfort bubble, and that’s when they start getting agitated. Keeping your distance is just about the No. 1 thing that you can do.”

He understands that it is difficult at times to maintain those safe distances, especially with the high snowbanks this time of year and vegetation along trails in the summer.

A bull moose walks through some snow behind Summit Cove in Summit County.
Stephen Johnson/Courtesy photo

“That goes back to that constant state of vigilance,” Rehak Suma said. “You really don’t want to surprise them. You want to let them know that you’re there far ahead of time, so that they can get out of your way and so that they do have that opportunity to move out.”

He said another problem is, for whatever reason, many people are not afraid of moose.

“For some reason, people have a less inherent fear of a moose than they do a bear,” Rehak Suma said. “So they’re much more willing to try to get close, and they’re more willing to push those boundaries than they would be with a bear.”

He also warns people to be aware that if a moose stops whatever it’s doing to look at you, that’s a good time to make a plan.

“Do what you can to let them know that you’re coming in. Then make sure that you always do have an escape route,” Rehak Suma said. “Getting behind cars is pretty good, and big trees, again, are pretty good. Ultimately, this is one of those issues that 99 times out of 100 can be avoided, and that’s really the line that we want people to take. Avoid these encounters, and that’s how everybody’s going to get through it safely — both us and them.”

He said that while the Mountain Village residents faced the unique problem of getting to and from their homes, being vigilant for a few days resulted in a limited number of conflicts.

He is hoping to continue to limit those conflicts, and he wants residents to be keenly aware as moose cows start giving birth in the next few weeks.

Calving season normally arrives in May and lasts through June. Moose can always be aggressive, but when calves are involved, that aggression can be even more apparent.

Both Rehak Suma and Noble said they want to hear from the public when moose are in populated areas. They will respond to make sure residents keep a safe distance, and when needed, they will help move the animals.

Noble said he doesn’t want to discourage people from calling police when a moose becomes a problem, and officers will do their best to protect both the public and the animal in those situations.

“Moose are unique creatures because they really aren’t afraid of a whole lot,” Noble said. “If somebody feels like there’s a risk to the public, they should definitely call in. Whether we have the ability to immediately handle that situation is different. It might be a situation where we have to wait for a wildlife officer to arrive on scene, but I wouldn’t discourage people ever from calling the police if they’re concerned about safety.”

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