Moose dies at Keystone Resort after becoming entangled in cords of snowmaking equipment

Eliza Noe Summit Daily
A light dusting of snow is scattered on the peaks of Keystone Ski Resort on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

A moose died at Keystone Resort in what wildlife managers are calling an accident they have never seen before. 

The bull died after it became tangled in electrical cords connected to snowmaking equipment. Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rachael Gonzales said no one she has spoken with at the agency has ever seen an animal die under similar circumstances at a ski area.

The cause of death for the moose, according to Parks and Wildlife, was capture myopathy, or a noninfectious disease in animals in which muscle damage results from extreme exertion, struggle or stress.

According to a 2019 study published by the National Library of Medicine, it is most common in wildlife rather than domestic animals, and treatment rates for animals with capture myopathy are often “poor.”

“It’s basically just that stress on his body,” Gonzales said. “Probably trying to get out from being tangled ended up actually shutting down his body.”

During this time of year, moose look for ways to rub off any velvet left on their antlers. Because they need to rub off the velvet, accidents like this are more likely now than at other times of the year, according to Parks and Wildlife reports. Animals with horns often get caught on objects, but Gonzales said it’s more likely that they will get tangled on swing sets or in volleyball nets.

Gonzales said in Estes Park, wildlife managers were able to resolve a similar situation involving a bull elk that had gotten caught in a fence. The elk was tangled in the fencing, and responding wildlife managers tranquilized the elk before successfully freeing it.  

Gonzales said that there is not a formal process for reporting incidents in which any animal dies by accident, and most calls come in from incidents involving larger animals such as moose or deer. When an investigation into an animal death happens, wildlife managers gather their statements from any witnesses and look around the area for what may have happened. Gonzales said every situation is different.

She added that resort employees called Parks and Wildlife upon discovery of the moose, but by that time, it was too late to do anything for it. 

“We always encourage people to call. If you happen to have your local wildlife officer’s phone number, give them a call,” she said. “If you don’t, then calling the office for your area is just as well.”

Sometimes, animals can work themselves out from getting tangled, too, but Gonzales said it’s still important to call wildlife officials since it gives the department an opportunity to evaluate the situation.

A video of the incident provided to the Colorado Sun shows the moose being removed from the area by being dragged by a truck.

Parks and Wildlife is working with the resort on how to prevent an accident like this from happening again. 

Sara Lococo, senior communications manager for Keystone Resort, said in a statement that the event was a “sad and rare accident.”

“The moose was located near the mid-station of the River Run Gondola, and as part of the guidance we received from (Parks and Wildlife), we received approval to move the moose a short distance into a wooded area, just below where it was found, to dress the moose in order to be able to donate the meat,” Vail Resorts wrote in its statement.

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