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Moose numbers growing

Dennis Webb

A bull moose that has been hanging around the Canyon Creek area apparently has some female company.Members of a hunting party spotted two cows and a bull up Possum Creek on the north side of Storm King Mountain in early November, New Castle resident Jim Slappey said. The bull was about a half-mile from the cows, he said.Slappey didn’t see the moose himself, but is confident of the story told by those who did.”The people that saw them were all old, experienced hunters, and fortunately they know the difference between an elk and a moose,” he said.Pat Tucker, area manager in Glenwood Springs for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, was encouraged to hear that the bull moose spotted in Canyon Creek in early October appeared to have been surviving the hunting season, which ended Nov. 10. Tucker had worried that hunters would mistake the moose for an elk and shoot it. He said the DOW had been working to inform hunters that a moose had been seen in the area, and to make sure they didn’t confuse it for another animal.Garfield County doesn’t have a permanent moose population. Some of the biggest populations in Colorado are around Walden and Lake City, but Tucker said satellite populations exist in the Homestake Reservoir and Piney Lake areas in Eagle and Pitkin counties.He said it’s not uncommon for young bulls to take trips far from home.The presence of bull and cow moose near each other in the Glenwood Springs area raises the prospect of the animals breeding locally.Should that happen, it could provide the true test of whether the moose stay around, Tucker said. Moose calves have specific habitat needs, which could dictate whether they can survive in the Canyon Creek area, perhaps can find good terrain in the Flat Tops, or choose to return to familiar stomping grounds.The moose breeding period runs from late September to early October, according to the DOW Web site.A bull moose began hanging around a residential area in Canyon Creek in early October. One resident there, Cindy Stillman, speculated at the time that more than one moose might have been in the area, based on varying descriptions of the animal.Slappey is hoping the moose make themselves at home in Garfield County.”It’s kind of exciting that maybe we’ll get a moose herd established over here,” he said. “How can you not get excited to see a moose here in this part of the country?”He said he used to hike in parts of the state where moose are commonly found, and enjoys watching them.Slappey said he is glad to hear the local moose have moved farther away from Interstate 70. He’s hoping they continue going north.”I would think that this Flat Tops area up here, with all the lakes and aquatic grass and willow and whatnot, would be adequate to support at least some moose populations,” he said.That just may be the case, Tucker said. The ongoing presence of moose this fall “may indicate around here that we certainly have unoccupied habitat that’s suitable for them,” he said.”If the moose have found it and are liking it, maybe there is something to it,” he said.The DOW would have no problem with moose establishing a local population. It’s already planning to begin relocating the animals to Grand Mesa near Grand Junction this winter.”If the moose find a place more to their liking, all the better,” Tucker said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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