Officials move moose to mesa | PostIndependent.com

Officials move moose to mesa

Dennis Webb
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson
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A moose’s visit to No Name this week became decidedly less hospitable at exactly 7:14 p.m. Friday.

“We got two good hits in him,” John Broderick said after he and fellow Colorado Division of Wildlife employee Kevin Wright fired two tranquilizer darts at the animal. They shot point-blank from the deck of the Liotta residence while the moose lolled in an adjacent decorative pond.

Other DOW workers marked the time and waited for the tranquilizers to take effect as the startled animal moved off toward Wayne and Jan Treadwell’s home next door.

These were the first steps on a journey to a better place for the moose. The DOW moved the animal to Grand Mesa near Grand Junction Friday night, after deciding it was too risky to let it stay in a residential neighborhood, close to Interstate 70.

Moving the animal posed risks of its own, but Friday’s operation appeared to go smoothly, said Jeff Madison, a senior terrestrial biologist with the DOW who has been involved in establishing a moose population on Grand Mesa this year.

“He went down real smooth. He’s coming up real smooth,” Madison said, referring to the young bull’s reaction to the tranquilizers.

As Madison spoke, the moose was struggling to stand back up inside a horse trailer, while drugs used to reverse the effects of the tranquilizers kicked in.

Madison planned to release the moose on Grand Mesa later that night. The release site is about six miles east of Vega Reservoir.

Thirteen other moose already are living on Grand Mesa under the relocation program. Three other moose have died during attempts to relocate them there, reflecting the dangers inherent in such efforts.

However, the No Name moose will end up in prime moose habitat on Grand Mesa, full of willows to eat and water to wallow in. And the DOW won’t have to worry about it posing the threat of becoming aggressive toward people, or ending up on the highway and endangering motorists as well as itself. A full-size moose can be twice the size of a deer, said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.

DOW officials think the moose may also have been one that was hanging around the Canyon Creek subdivision west of Glenwood Springs last fall. That animal eventually moved on and might have gone up into the high country between Canyon Creek and No Name.

The DOW would have been fine with a moose staying in the area if it had remained up high, but officials feared the No Name moose was becoming accustomed to residential areas.

“This one seems to be making itself quite at home,” Hampton said Friday before the animal’s move. “Assuming it’s the same animal that was in Canyon Creek, it’s getting to be pretty comfortable in populated areas, and that’s something we don’t want to see.”

Hampton said the DOW could have tried to haze the moose out of No Name, but there was a danger of it ending up on Interstate 70.

One danger with tranquilizing the moose was the hot weather. Hampton said the drug minimizes an animal’s ability to regulate heat.

However, DOW officers monitored the moose’s temperature, and it remained steady during Friday’s operation, which the DOW purposely conducted in the evening rather than the heat of the day.

Once the moose became groggy from the darts, DOW workers tied his legs, covered his eyes, took a blood sample and installed a yellow ear tag with a solar-powered radio transmitter.

They then rolled the animal, which weighs about 750 pounds, onto a tarp. Then Madison turned to a group of about a dozen volunteers the DOW had rounded up, and gave them the gorillalike pose of a bodybuilder ” their signal that their muscles were needed. They hurried up, took hold of the tarp, and shuffled the moose to the trailer.

Eric Miller was one of the volunteers, recruited by his friend Sonia Marzec, district wildlife manager in Glenwood Springs. He said he’s worked on similar projects in the past, involving animals from bighorn sheep to turkeys.

“I help her with a lot of things. I’m a state trooper,” he explained.

“The nice thing about this stuff is everybody wants to help,” said Bill Andree, a district wildlife manager from Vail who also pitched in Friday.

The converging of DOW volunteers and staff at the Treadwell property surprised neighbors. Several had wandered over that evening in hopes of seeing the moose, only to stumble onto the DOW operation.

“If he’s going to safety it would be OK,” one No Name resident, Penny Donelan, said of the decision to relocate the animal.

She has lived in No Name since 1974 and never seen a moose there. The animals have been reintroduced in the past in the Walden and Lake City areas, and some have moved into the Vail region.

Madison said a total of about 60 moose eventually may be moved to Grand Mesa. While some of the first ones were from Creede, most now are coming from Utah. Most of the Utah animals are like the No Name moose ” young bulls whose wandering ways sometimes lead them to more urbanized areas.

The DOW hopes that as the Grand Mesa moose reproduce, their numbers may reach about 200.

The No Name moose will be monitored in coming days to ensure that he emerges in good health from his recent journey.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

dwebb@postindependent.com


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