Moose On the Mesa Project
A final report released by a panel of experts to review the Creede moose capture operation and provide recommendations for future captures found that the animal deaths in Creede were regrettable and atypical, but "the individual cases were not outside the character of capture-related losses that have occurred during similar operations."
Three moose were released east of Vega Reservoir last month, but the deaths of three other moose during capture operations led the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) to conduct an independent review of capture protocols.
The panel, which was compiled by the DOW and included veterinarians, biologists, and animal welfare specialists from Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, also determined that the DOW was "prudent in halting the [trapping] operation to assess the unusual pattern" of mortalities.
"We appreciate the review and suggestions from members of this panel, all of whom have a great deal of experience with moose," said DOW director Bruce McCloskey. "We are encouraged to know that we handled this situation properly and we plan to implement the suggestions of the panel."
McCloskey added that the panel’s report has essentially cleared the way for moose transplants to western Colorado's Grand Mesa to proceed.
Panel recommendations for future moose capture operations include: designating clear lines of authority in regard to human and animal safety; development of detailed protocols for each operation; and evaluation of completed captures to review protocols and outcomes.
A full copy of the expert panel's final report is available on the DOW Web site at: www.wildlife.state.co.us/species/moose/reintroduction_grandmesa.asp
Due to above average snowfall along Utah's Wasatch Front and the time needed to implement the recommendations of the expert panel, the DOW and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources have modified plans to conduct a large-scale moose trap and transplant operation in the next few weeks. Instead, the DOW will receive moose from Utah through the capture of dispersal moose.
"Last year, Utah trapped about 100 dispersal moose," said Ron Velarde, DOW northwest regional manager. "So, while we won't be getting 20 moose at one time, we are expecting to get more moose than we originally expected over the next few months."
Dispersal moose are trapped in Utah as they move out from existing moose herds in search of new territory. If these moose push eastward into communities or across major roadways, they are trapped and relocated for their own safety to more remote areas. Because Utah is already capturing these moose, there will be no additional labor involved. DOW employees will pickup the moose on short notice and transport them to the Grand Mesa for release.
"We are excited to be moving forward with this project," Velarde added. "The positive comments and support we have received since the initial release has confirmed that moose will be an exciting addition to the Grand Mesa."
Biologists have been checking on the cow and two bulls released on Jan. 18. The animals appear healthy and active. The two bulls traveled together to explore the area north of the release site, but have stayed within a few miles of the original introduction. The cow moose has remained close to the original release site, which was selected because of its plentiful willow forage for the animals.