Wildlife authorities move 20 moose | VailDaily.com

Wildlife authorities move 20 moose

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – About 20 Colorado moose have a new address after wildlife authorities moved them from the Steamboat Springs area to western Colorado.

The moose were moved last week to Rio Blanco County along the Utah state line. There they’ll join 24 moose previously moved there from Utah.

The state Department of Wildlife moved the moose to help spread the population. First the animals had to be sedated, blindfolded and immobilized by having their legs tied with leather straps. Then the moose were flown by helicopter to a staging area and trucked west in horse trailers.

Jackson County, Colo., has a moose herd that numbers about 500. Wildlife officials say they spread the moose from that county’s North Park area to diversify the population and spread more moose.

“We consider North Park to be Colorado’s moose savings account,” said Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. “Along with bighorn sheep, they are the wildlife people most want to see.”

Last week’s transplant operation required an airplane and a helicopter, Hampton said.

People in the airplane spot the moose from above and use GPS coordinates to determine whether the animals are on public or private land. The DOW captures animals on private property only with permission.

The chopper swoops in to allow a marksman with a net gun to snare the moose. The net subdues the animal, Hampton said.

The helicopter then touches down so that the same man, known as a mugger, can dash in and use a syringe to administer a mild sedative to the animal.

In about half the cases, Hampton said, the mugger must physically knock the groggy animal to the ground before blindfolding and hobbling it.

Hampton said one moose struggled out of its sling while airborne beneath the helicopter last week and died from the fall.

“It’s rare, and we hate to lose one,” Hampton said. “But we know that whenever we put hands on animals, we could lose 5 to 10 percent of them. We weigh the risks and feel that the benefits to Colorado are worth the risk.”

Moose were first reintroduced into North Park from Wyoming in 1978 when a dozen were turned loose.

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