Researchers keep eye in the sky on Steamboat Springs moose population
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Global positioning satellites high above Steamboat Springs continue to keep tabs on the local moose population, including the mother that was lunching on bushes with her calf Monday afternoon at 11th and Oak streets.
The two moose have been downtown in recent weeks, with notable appearances at the Routt County Courthouse, Wells Fargo bank and Colorado Mountain College, where their presence made it difficult for drivers to get around the parking lot.
The mother has a collar around her neck with a GPS device that is being used to research the movements of the local moose population.
“Over time, I’ll think we’ll start to see some patterns,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager Kris Middledorf said.
In November, Parks and Wildlife officers put the collars on 10 adult moose with the goal of eventually tracking 20 of them.
“When the opportunity comes up, if we can get any more collars out, we will,” Middledorf said.
It is part of a multi-year, $50,000 project, and researchers are especially interested in seeing how often the moose roam around Steamboat Ski Area, where there is the potential for conflicts with humans.
Researchers have learned that since November, six of nine known moose have moved away from the ski area.
Sightings have not been as common this winter at the ski area, although a trail was closed over the weekend because they were in the vicinity.
“It’s not uncommon for us to close trails due to moose activity,” ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said.
By tracking the moose, wildlife researchers are hoping to test some theories.
It is believed moose will appear more frequently on the ski area’s groomed trails and in Steamboat’s urban areas because they can avoid the deep snow.
“They’re not mobility impaired,” Middledorf said.
Maybe this year, the relatively mild winter has made it easier for moose to travel in the woods, and they prefer to avoid human contact.
Researchers also want to know at what elevations the moose travel.
“I think it would be interesting to see where the cows are having their calves,” Middledorf said.
While moose do not appear to be spending as much time in the city and ski area this winter, Middledorf said people should still be careful.
“Don’t get close,” Middledorf said. “These animals are not predictable. We’re talking about a 900-pound animal.”
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