Menacing moose tranquilized, removed from Breckenridge Nordic Center
Officers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Breckenridge Police Department successfully tranquilized and relocated three adult moose from Breckenridge Nordic Center on Sunday, March 12, after reports that the animals had been threatening skiers.
The move came on the heels of a viral video that circulated over the weekend showing a moose chasing a group of snowboarders down a Breckenridge Ski Resort slope. Parks and Wildlife said it was unclear whether or not that moose was one of three removed on Sunday because that incident had occurred in a different part of the area.
Officials with CPW said that while they have occasionally relocated moose in the past, doing so is very unusual and requires a credible safety threat.
“This is not something we do often,” said Mike Porras, a CPW spokesman. “There is wildlife in Colorado, and we’re not going to move them just because they’re around people.”
One major reason for that is the tremendous burden of tranquilizing and moving such enormous animals — especially when they’re away from roads up on a ski mountain.
An adult moose can weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds, wildlife officials said.
“This is not something we normally do or want to do because it’s extremely difficult,” CPW district wildlife manager Elissa Knox said. “The biggest task was getting them from the Nordic Center down to a horse trailer.”
Knox said that CPW has relocated aggressive moose from Breckenridge in the past. The latest was a couple of years ago, when a cantankerous bull near the resort’s Four O’ Clock run was harassing skiers and even knocked over a snowboarder with its head.
On the whole, however, moving moose is still very rare, Knox said:
“With all the activity we’ve had — there were two other cow moose near Peak 8 — we know we have a lot of moose in the Breckenridge area. It really has to be a health and human safety issue for us to move them.”
Knox said that, in general, if you see a moose change its behavior at all, you’re probably too close for comfort. The animals can run as fast as 35 miles per hour and are known to be very territorial.
If one starts to charge, she explained, try to get something big in between you and the moose: a large tree, rock or a vehicle all work well.
“There were no dogs involved in this incident, but typically dogs are big instigators,” Knox said. “Wolves are the only natural predators for moose, and to them a domestic dog is just a funny-looking wolf.”
The best way to keep your canine companion from riling up a moose is to keep it on a leash when out on a hike, Knox said.
Breckenridge police had initially received a call at around 10 a.m. Sunday from a group of Nordic skiers who said they were being “menaced” by a moose that had charged them several times.
Officers responded to the scene under the gondola near Peak 7, and there a bull moose ran onto the trail with its ears pinned back and hackles raised, both signs of aggression.
Police then retreated to a more wooded area and called CPW while Breckenridge Nordic Center staff closed off the Morning Glory and Hang Ten trails. Soon after wildlife officers arrived, two more moose had joined the original bull.
“At that point, there were three moose in the area where people had been charged,” said Knox. “We were also getting new reports of aggressive behavior throughout the past week, and given that pattern of aggression we decided we were going to remove them.”
After tranquilizing each of the beasts, a group of about a half-dozen police and wildlife managers pushed them onto specialized tarps with handles all around.
Those were then attached to a snowmobile and a snowcat provided by the ski area and dragged down to the road, where the incapacitated moose were loaded onto the horse trailer.
By around 6:30 p.m., all three were bound for new haunts in Grand County, where they were released.
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