Colorado moose population to get boost
September 12, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Two years ago, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources teamed up to re-establish a moose population in Colorado’s Grand Mesa National Forest by relocating animals from an overpopulated area in Utah.
This winter, both divisions are again joining forces to transplant between 15 and 20 of the animals to the Flat Tops Wilderness east of Meeker in Rio Blanco County, with hopes that an additional 15 to 20 will be transplanted the following year. The goal of the Flat Tops Moose Transplant Project is to establish a self-sustaining, breeding moose population on the Flat Tops for future recreational purposes.
“The main reason for the transplant is to provide additional hunting and viewing opportunities for people,” said DOW biologist Darby Finley.
According to DOW spokesman Randy Hampton, moose were not as rare a sight in Colorado more than 100 years ago as they are in parts of the state today. But, populations were depleted by early settlers in Colorado, as hunting moose provided large quantities of meat and the animals were fairly easy to hunt.
“Moose were very prized for hunting,” Hampton said.
Hampton said there are records dating back to the early 1900s that indicate moose were spotted in the Battlement Reserve, which is now the Grand Mesa National Forest, near Grand Junction.
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“Historically we know that there were moose in that area,” Hampton said.
All through the northern stretch of Colorado, moose populations were thought to be prevalent at one time, but have since become scarce to nonexistent in some areas like the Flat Tops area north of Glenwood Springs.
“We’ve already have a small resident moose herd of probably less than a dozen animals in the White River National Forest,” Finley said. “But this project will fill in that void to have a more contiguous moose population in the northern part of the state.”
For the past 30 years, the DOW has re-established moose populations to much of the state. Starting in 1978, the DOW relocated moose to the North Park area near Walden, from Wyoming. Currently, the moose population for the north-central region of the state, including North Park (about 700 moose) and Middle Park (about 300), is estimated to be about 1,000 strong, according to Hampton. He estimated the state’s total moose population at about 2,000 animals.
“In 1991, we had so much success with the initial North Park population that we established a moose population near Creede,” Hampton said. ” That’s our Rio Grande population of moose.”
The Rio Grande population is estimated to have grown to around 400 animals. Then, nearly 14 years later, the DOW relocated some of that population to the Grand Mesa National Forest to establish a healthy population there. The Grand Mesa population now numbers between 120 and 150 animals, according to Hampton.
In 2006, Utah wildlife officials notified the DOW that Utah had an overpopulation of moose in part of the state and offered some of the animals for relocation.
“They wanted to move some moose, so they called us and asked us if we wanted some,” Hampton said. “And we said, ‘you bet.'”
In recent years, some of the reintroduced animals have made their way as far as the Roaring Fork Valley and the Flat Tops, Hampton said.
“We do see moose in the Flat Tops now,” Hampton said. ” They do move, they look for new territory and habitat. They kind of spread out as they grow.”
Finley said a date for the next transplant has not yet been set, but it is expected to take place in early 2009. The moose will be captured via a net dropped from a helicopter, processed by the DOW ” which involves taking blood and other biological samples, marked with ear tags and collared for tracking purposes ” and then transported to Colorado by trailer.