Moose Set to Roam Grand Mesa

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After more than three years of discussion, scientific analysis, and planning, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is in the final stage of bringing moose to western Colorado's Grand Mesa. The U.S. Forest Service oversees management of much of the land atop the Grand Mesa and is working closely with the DOW on the moose transplant.

The first moose will be transported more than 200 miles to the Grand Mesa on Tuesday, Jan. 18, and will be released at 9 a.m. DOW biologists hope to release between five and 10 moose that morning, but weather and capture conditions can easily affect the plan for the release.

The moose being released on Jan. 18 will be captured a day earlier in the Rio Grande National Forest near Creede. A professional capture team will use a helicopter and net gun to catch cows, calves, and young bulls. The moose will be netted, tranquilized, and then suspended and flown to a nearby staging area. At the staging area the tranquilized moose will undergo a health assessment, be fitted with radio collars, and placed inside stock trailers specially equipped to haul wildlife.

Colorado is currently home to two healthy moose populations. The DOW introduced the first significant breeding population in North Park in the late 1970s. A second successful introduction near Creede was conducted in the early 1990s.

"The idea of establishing moose on the Grand Mesa has been around for years," said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for the DOW, "but the idea gained serious momentum when it was presented to us by local residents in 2001."

The DOW held a number of public meetings, including several with Grand Mesa landowners, to gather input, answer questions, and address initial concerns. A habitat assessment was conducted by the DOW and the U.S. Forest Service and showed sufficient willow forage on the Grand Mesa to support a moose population. Additional public meetings were held following the habitat findings, and public sentiment was strongly in favor of proceeding with introduction efforts.

Funding for the transplant project is being provided by Safari Club International's Colorado chapter. Each year the organization hosts a raffle for a Colorado moose hunting license. Over the past seven years, the organization has given more than $200,000 to the DOW to help with moose and moose habitat.