Grand Mesa is moose Nirvana
GRAND JUNCTION – It’s a great day to be a bull moose.Wildlife officials from Colorado and Utah wrapped up a two-day effort this week by transplanting two dozen more Utah moose – mostly cows and calves – onto the Grand Mesa east of Grand Junction. The release increases to 46 the number of Grand Mesa moose suitable for viewing.The release comes exactly one year to the day when the first Utah moose was released on the Grand Mesa.”The goal was 25 for that first year,” said local Colorado Division of Wildlife official Randy Hampton. “It’s been a good year.”
Man or a moose?The new moose came from Utah’s Cache National Forest, not far from Salt Lake City. The partnership was pretty simple. Utah had way too many moose and the Grand Mesa didn’t have any, but is covered with what passes for moose Nirvana.”A couple years ago some folks came to talk to us about putting moose on the Grand Mesa. It’s been successful in North Park and Creede,” said Hampton.
It took 2 1/2 years for a habitat analysis and a lot of public meetings.So far, the moose seem happy to be here – with the obvious exception of the one that got whacked by a confused elk hunter and one hit on I-70.”We received a lot of positive feedback during hunting season from hunters who enjoyed seeing the moose,” said Hampton. “We got a letter from some folks on the east coast who didn’t get an elk but saw some moose. They said it made the whole trip worthwhile.”
Of Moose and menLike anything else, capturing moose isn’t complicated if you have the right tools. A helicopter comes in handy, especially if it comes geared up with a gun that shoots a giant net. Trucks and horse trailers help, and like moving anything else big and bulky you need plenty of strong backs.How it works, Hampton said, is a helicopter hovers as close as possible to the moose, usually about 100 feet or less. “The helicopter just swings down and they fire away,” said Hampton, who was on his way back from Utah with a horse trailer loaded with moose. “They come right up on them, the net covers the animal and it comes down.”
Two guys called muggers, which Hampton says is really what they’re called, jump out of the helicopter to tie the moose’s legs together and blindfold it, which Hampton says helps it relax.No moose are tranquilized for the move.”It just makes more stress for the animals,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ Justin Doolig told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We put the blindfold on them and it really calms them down.”The muggers attach a cable to the net and then to the helicopter. The helicopter picks up its payload and flies it to the staging area where some medical tests check for chronic wasting disease, blood is taken and the moose are given a wormer and some antibiotics. Each moose gets a collar or a radio transmitter eartag.
Then comes the part where you need your buddies. It takes 10 full-grown wildlife officers to load an 800-pound cow in a horse trailer.”We try to do it gently, considering we’re all getting a hernia,” said Hampton.Your last move, said Hampton, is to remove the blindfold and hobble and run as fast as you can.”If you don’t run fast enough, it could be your last move,” he laughed.
Even with all that, their biggest challenge was still ahead of them.”The biggest problem isn’t pulling a horse trailer stuffed with moose, it’s dealing with rush hour traffic in Salt Lake,” Hampton said.Vail, Colorado