Moose are on the loose all over Steamboat. The sightings started in neighborhoods around town, and pictures quickly began popping up on Facebook.
Laurie Good had two in her back yard, a mile from downtown. "They were gorgeous big bull moose. It was startling at first, but they were so beautiful at the same time, really big and elegant with their big racks."
Marc Fraioli also saw a bull moose, cow, and calf on the golf course near his house. "You think of some of the other ski areas like Jackson Hole where part of the draw is the diversity of wildlife, so the fact that Steamboat can add more species like moose is great. You go out on a winter wonderland vacation to go skiing and you might see elk, fox, or a bear. Now you might see moose here, too."
Good says she was surprised the moose were so close to her house. "I didn't think moose would be so comfortable in a residential area with houses, fences, and dogs."
Danielle Domson with the Colorado Division of Wildlife says there is definitely an increase in the number of moose people are seeing in Steamboat. "It's mainly because of the large moose population in the North Park area (about 60 miles east of Steamboat Springs), on the other side of the Continental Divide. They have an excellent habitat over there. It's where we first tried to re-introduce the moose to Colorado in the '70s. Now they're expanding their range and venturing over to Steamboat."
Domson says the moose like to be near drainage areas so they can drink, and eat willow and alder trees. She adds that of all the wildlife species, moose pose the biggest public safety threat. "They seem pretty docile until people get too close and they have dogs. They view dogs to be associated with a wolf which is their only natural predator, so they'll definitely attack dogs, especially if there is a cow and a calf."
Moose need plenty of space and Domson says there are a few indications if you are getting too close. "They'll start licking their snout, put their ears back, and the hair on their back will stand erect. Then the obvious one is if they charge at you. Unlike bears, they usually don't bluff charge you. They mean business." She adds to make a lot of noise and that will help encourage the moose to leave the area.
Laurie Good, who is the VP of finance for the Steamboat Ski Corp., says there are a lot of moose on the mountain, but people don't know about them because they just don't come out. When there was a moose on the skiing portion of the mountain, ski patrol was well aware of it. "Patrollers were called to move traffic so skiers weren't skiing toward the moose. They tried to shoo it away." It was even caught on video. Both Domson and Good referenced an infamous You Tube video of a moose running around the Steamboat base area, "Steamboat Moose Run at the Slopeside Grill - Moose on Slopes."