Animals will likely be brought from Utah
Due to an effort by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW), two small Gunnison-area moose populations will probably receive new members.
The populations, one in Taylor Park, north of Gunnison, and the other south of Gunnison near Cebolla Creek in the La Garita mountains, are offshoots of populations introduced to Colorado in the 1970s and 1990s, respectively, said J Wenum, Gunnison DOW area manager.
According to Wenum, about two dozen members of the public—including stockmen and hunters—turned out to hear about the proposal to bring more moose to the area from Utah. The meeting was held in Gunnison on Tuesday, December 18.
“It was generally well received,” said Wenum of the DOW proposal.
The DOW would like to add to the local populations over the next two or three years. “We’ll probably add to the La Garita population this winter, depending on our supply,” said Wenum.
The moose supply is dependent on populations in northern Utah, said Wenum.
“If (Utah DOW Resources) has some moose that end up where they’re not supposed to be, then we get them,” he said.
The DOW plans to augment the Taylor Park population in 2009. “Our hope is to build up these populations to increase recreational opportunities,” said Wenum, “like hunting and watchable wildlife.”
The moose, or Alces alces, is the largest species in the deer family and when full-grown has few natural enemies. A large male can weigh nearly 1,200 pounds and is notable for its huge antlers, grown over the summer and shed each winter.
Wenum said moose prefer willows for forage, especially in the winter, and because they are solitary creatures, they don’t compete directly with livestock.
Although their historical range is as far south as northern Colorado, Wenum said the Taylor Park moose probably made their way down from a population that was introduced to North Park, Colo. in 1978.
“It’s not uncommon for them to wander long distances,” Wenum said of adult moose.
The La Garita population, according to Wenum, migrated north from a moose population introduced to the Creede area in the early 1990s.
Occasionally moose are spotted near Gunnison. “Two years ago we had a lost moose on the Dos Rios golf course,” says Dos Rios resident and Gunnison County commissioner Paula Swenson.
Moose were also introduced to the Grand Mesa area in 2006.
Wenum said the DOW will assess the carrying capacity of local moose habitat and develop a management plan accordingly.