Still groggy from getting up at 5 a.m., I climbed into my dirty Subaru Forester with my cup of coffee and drove out the snowy driveway. Plugging in my iTunes for some driving music at this early hour, I glanced up and saw something flash across the road. Slowing down, I saw something large — REALLY LARGE, and pulled to a stop in the darkness. Glancing out my side window, there she was — a huge cow moose. She didn’t seem too bothered by my car’s squealing of brakes or my stopping to look at her. Shaking her head, she stood her ground along the side of the road, and seemed to give me a look of “Yeah, so what?”.
Such is life in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the small town of Nederland. Shortly after my near run-in with Mrs. Moose, my husband had a run in with Mr. Moose. Our house sits adjacent to U.S. Forest Service land, and there are trails that lead down to nearby North Boulder Creek. On many occasions when we have hiked down to the creek, we have spied piles of moose scat — round, brownish, milkdud-sized pellets. On this occasion, my husband had brought our two dogs, a border collie and retriever with him for a winter hike. Usually, when we are out on the Forest Service land, we tend to take our dogs off leash and let them run and stretch their legs. As he was walking, our border collie, Shawnee, let out a “wooooofff” with her plaintive, distinct bark. Glancing in the direction of her bark, there he was — Mr. Moose. Having already experienced a run-in between said border collie and the cow moose a couple of years ago, he instantly sprung into action, taking evasive action by sprinting into a tight thicket of pine trees. He called the two dogs, and miraculously, they came, where he was able to clip them onto leash. Seemingly unaware, the bull moose wandered off in another direction, and disaster had been averted.
Running into moose in our neighborhood seems to be more and more commonplace. And the dangers of an encounter with a moose are becoming more and more of a reality. Adult moose can weigh well over 2000 pounds, and can be quite ornery, especially around dogs, who they view as predators. Though they can appear clumsy with their long gawky legs and large, bulky bodies, moose can run very fast at a sprint, as well as being adept swimmers. They do not see particularly well, nor do they navigate well in tightly wooded areas, thus the reason for my husband’s actions.
Twenty years ago, seeing a moose around Nederland or anywhere on the east side of the Continental Divide was a rarity. If moose were seen anywhere in Colorado, it was on the west side of the divide in Grand County near Winter Park, and up near the small town of Walden. Walden was actually the site of the first reintroduction of moose back into Colorado in 1978, when 24 male and female moose were brought in from nearby Wyoming.
Whether the moose were truly “reintroduced” or not is actually the subject of debate, as many believe moose were never really true residents of what is now Colorado. Records dating back to the mid 19th century show that moose sometimes wandered through, but did not necessarily take up permanent residence here.
After the successful introduction in 1978, more moose were relocated to other parts of Colorado, including the Grand Mesa and Meeker areas from Wyoming and Utah. With our thickets of willow, and abundance of reservoirs, lakes and streams, moose have thrived and the population has steadily increased, with Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) indicating there are now more than 2300 moose residing in Colorado. So much so, that in their quest to find expanding territory, they have made their way back across the divide and our area is now home to large numbers of moose. CDOT has kept up with this trend, and now posted several moose crossing signs both along the Peak to Peak Highway and Boulder Canyon.
Whatever the reasons for their affinity for Nederland and the surrounding foothills, it’s a thrilling sight to see this magnificent creatures. Nothing is more magical than catching sight of this symbol of wilderness in the Rocky Mountains.