Young moose finds Smuggler Mountain Road grass irresistible, forces short closure
A young bull moose reminded folks in Aspen on Sunday morning that their playground is his habitat.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails closed Smuggler Mountain Road temporarily in the morning after a moose was reported browsing along the road roughly one-quarter of the way up, according to Pryce Hadley, ranger supervisor with the open space program. The call came in around 8:30 a.m. Hadley and a Pitkin County deputy sheriff responded, checked out the moose and recruited help from another deputy who asked hikers at the bottom of the popular route to wait a while, according to Hadley. Another ranger responded with signs that warned people that a moose was in the area.
The road was closed for half an hour at most, Hadley estimated.
“He was reluctant to leave the area,” Hadley said. Even with hundreds of thousands of acres of lush forest nearby, the moose wanted to browse along the road. At one point while Hadley was observing the moose got down on his front knees for a nibble.
The moose eventually headed off into the woods. Hadley said it was clearly agitated when he observed it. The moose had its ears turned forward and its hackles up, he said.
Most people were understanding of the potential conflict and adjusted their plans.
“Some said, ‘OK, I’m done. I’m going to hike the Ute Trail,” he said. Others continued on Smuggler Mountain Road with caution. Anyone with a dog was advised to put his or her pet on a leash.
Hadley said he believes there is good awareness of the potential for conflicts with moose in the Aspen area because of media coverage of prior incidents.
“We all live in a moose’s backyard,” Hadley said. “Most people get it.”
Many people understand that means treating the animals with respect. A person who cannot evade a moose reacting to their presence is too close, he said.
The signs alerting people to the moose sighting remained up Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll pull it if it seems the moose has moved on,” Hadley said.
There have been moose sightings on Smuggler Mountain in both summer and winter, but Hadley was unaware of any prior temporary closure.