Moose on the Mesa

Feb 082005
Authors: Nicole Barrett

On Jan. 17 the Division of Wildlife attempted to transport moose from Creede to Grand Mesa when three of the six moose transported died during capture, the three surviving moose were successfully moved to Grand Mesa.

"Each moose is equipped with tracking collars to track progress," said Randy Hampton, public information specialist for the Northwest Region of the Division of Wildlife. "The moose that were transported to Grand Mesa are doing fabulous."

The first moose the DOW tried to capture died from overexertion due to deep snow and struggling with the net, which could not surround the moose due to the snow.

"The helicopter crew threw down a second net, at which point the moose went down, (it was) overexerted," Hampton said.

The DOW has a protocol of three minutes for capturing moose or other wildlife, meaning that the animal must be captured within three minutes before it will become overexerted. Due to the death of the first moose the time limit was lowered to two minutes, to avoid similar mortalities.

"(The situation) ought to be looked at carefully to avoid making the same mistakes," said Delwin Benson, professor and extension wildlife specialist for the department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology at CSU.

The relocation continued successfully with two moose when the second mortality occurred, according to the DOW.

The moose was taken to the staging area, where it died, after being captured within 30 seconds, Hampton said. The DOW is running tests to determine the cause of death.

"It's kind of a mystery," Hampton said.

The DOW decided to capture the moose using chemicals after the second fatality. Two moose were caught successfully using this method, Hampton said.

The third fatality of the day occurred during the next capture when a calf was sedated and brought to the staging area, where it died of trauma.

"The best guess is that the mother stomped the calf to get it back up," Hampton said. "However, this is just a theory."

The carcasses were taken to the CSU Veterinary Diagnostics Lab, said Dell Rae Moellenberg, spokeswoman for CSU. "We can confirm that we are performing tests on the moose."

"I hate to see it happen, it is something that is not very common," Benson said.

The DOW knows that there are risks when capturing animals, Hampton said.

"We feel terrible about what happened, it was a tough day, very unfortunate," Hampton said.

Despite the loss of three moose the DOW still plan to continue with the operation by relocating moose to Grand Mesa, Hampton said.

"We need to overcome and stop losses, but a small percentage of loss is probably inevitable," Benson said.

The public, for the most part, supports the operation to get the moose to Grand Mesa, Hampton said.

The DOW checks on the three moose that made it to Grand Mesa daily.

"The DOW will continue to check on the moose daily for the first few weeks," Hampton said.

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