Moose makes splash on Fryingpan | AspenTimes.com

Moose makes splash on Fryingpan

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado

An incredulous Wolf Scheiblberg, fishing in the Fryingpan River late last week, keeps an eye on the fish on his line and a nearby bull moose crossing the river. (Courtesy Daniel LeMoine)

BASALT – A bull moose made a splash with a pair of startled anglers on the Fryingpan River last week.

The two fishermen couldn’t have been more surprised Thursday evening when the one of the giant animals waded into the river where they were fly-fishing on a stretch near the bridge below the Ruedi dam.

The bull moose ambled into the water, got about halfway across, eyed the stunned men and headed back for shore, according to Wolf Scheiblberg, manager at the Crystal Fly Shop in Carbondale. About 10 minutes later, the moose returned to the river and crossed to the other side, disappearing in the brush.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen one,” Scheiblberg said. “It was really close. It worked out OK. He didn’t charge or anything.

“When he came out the second time, we actually both had a fish on.”

Scheiblberg’s fishing partner, Rifle attorney Daniel LeMoine, had a camera and the presence of mind to snap a few photos of the encounter.

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LeMoine said he was shocked by the sighting but unafraid: “I had my buddy between the moose and me,” he quipped.

Scheiblberg, on the other hand, was wondering if he could hide beneath the water if the animal became aggressive.

“You can’t run very fast in waist-deep in water,” he explained.

LeMoine has seen moose in other states, and a few in Colorado, but the animal in the Fryingpan is the first he’s seen locally.

It’s apparently not the only one around.

Kelly Wood, state wildlife officer for the Basalt district, said a male moose has also been spotted during the last two weeks along Garfield County Road 100 in Missouri Heights. She suspects it is a different moose than the one roaming the Fryingpan Valley.

She said she brought the spotting to the public’s attention to try to make sure hunters in that area identify their animals correctly and don’t confuse the moose with elk.

There are an estimated 1,500 moose in Colorado and, undoubtedly, there are some in the Roaring Fork Valley, though sightings are relatively rare, according to Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.

There are about 100 of the animals on the Grand Mesa, southeast of Palisade and Grand Junction, where the DOW is engaged in an effort to reintroduce moose. One of the release areas, Hightower Mountain, is perhaps 10 miles from the Pitkin County line, and one of the animals was spotted on the Roaring Fork River last year, Hampton said.

“There would be no reason to think they wouldn’t spread into that area,” he said.

The DOW began reintroducing moose to Colorado in 1978, releasing animals in North Park near Walden, east of Steamboat Springs. That population spread into the Middle Park area near Kremmling. The DOW has also reintroduced moose in the vicinity of Creede in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, in addition to the Grand Mesa releases.

“We know historically there were moose in Colorado, but not in large numbers,” Hampton said. Since the animal’s reintroduction, moose hunting has been allowed in the North Park, Middle Park and Creede areas, though the number of licenses the agency issues to hunt the animals is quite limited. Moose hunting on the Grand Mesa won’t be permitted until the population there reaches 250 to 350 animals, he said, and no moose hunting is permitted anywhere in the vicinity of the Roaring Fork Valley.

Areas where people might encounter moose are often posted with warning signs cautioning elk hunters not to shoot at a moose by mistake.

Moose are one of the most popular animals in the state, from a wildlife viewing perspective, according to Hampton.

They are typically docile, though males can become aggressive during the fall rut, as can cows when they are accompanied by a calf in the spring, he said.