The Aspen area’s moose population has expanded to the point where the animals are showing up on the fringes of town.
One moose wandered about the Burlingame affordable-housing project Friday above the Roaring Fork River ravine.
“The moose never crossed the caution tape put up to keep residents off the newly seeded area,” Susan Chism, who took a photo of the wandering moose, wrote in an email.
Aspen resident Brenon Reed submitted a photo of a moose trotting onto the Upper Moore ball field.
Moose have proliferated in recent years around Maroon Lake, about 12 miles southwest of Aspen. The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have closed the scenic loop trail around the lake numerous times this summer when tourists have ventured too close to the animals and provoked a charge.
Forest Service officials reported that at least one moose also has been spotted at Difficult Campground, 4 miles east of Aspen.
Perry Will, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said moose will continue expanding into the enticing habitat the Aspen area has to offer.
“The moose are all pioneering into new territory,” he said. Cows typically give birth to one calf per year, though twins are possible.
Moose are mostly solitary animals, except for cows with calves and during mating, Will said. They have a low tolerance level for disturbance and are easily provoked by the sight of dogs. They equate dogs with wolves and will go on the offensive to stomp them, according to wildlife officials.
Will said the wildlife division expects moose to continue to proliferate in the Roaring Fork River Basin. He noted that several moose live in the Fryingpan Valley. Eventually he expects they will spread into every area with habitat that suits them. Willow brush is a particularly favored habitat.
The efforts by moose to find new territory bring them through residential areas, according to Will. He wasn’t surprised to hear that one of the animals was hanging around in Burlingame.
“We have them all over Vail,” Will said.
He urged homeowners to be patient and stay alert if moose have been spotted in their neighborhoods. They might have to alter their patterns of walking their dogs for a while, he said. While moose pioneering patterns are unpredictable, Will said he suspects they will move out of residential areas after a short while. He said he understands the frustration of some homeowners that “We’re prisoners in our own home.” Patience, he stressed, is the key.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to avoid relocating moose.
“If they become a problem, we will,” he said.
Moose-hunting licenses are issued for some parts of the state, but the population hasn’t reached the size in the Roaring Fork Valley where limited licenses will be offered, according to Will. The wildlife division will monitor the population and set objectives. Hunting will be used to stick to the targeted number.
Meanwhile, human-moose confrontations have eased at Maroon Lake, where the Aspen Ranger District of the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife mounted an intense education effort to convince people to leave dogs at home and keep their distance from moose.
“I give credit to (the Forest Service) and I give credit to the visitors,” Will said.