It used to be that seeing a moose required a drive out of the Gunnison Valley. But for Kat Fentiman, who was staying with her husband at their home near Crested Butte South for the Labor Day weekend, all it took was rolling groggily over in bed.
“I wake up and turn over and there’s a moose looking in the window, with his little face pressed against the window,“ Fentiman said. “He had a great big rack but he didn’t look like a huge guy to me. But I just started screaming ‘Moose, moose, moose!’” With the rising sun shining in, she wondered if the moose could even see through the glare. But while the Fentimans scrambled for a camera, the moose seemed to look on, then turned to graze and eventually amble off over the East River. Whether it’s in Gothic, Grant Lake, on Kebler Pass or in Crested Butte South, Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager J Wenum says it’s not surprising more and more moose are making their way to the area. “We’ve got moose scattered around. It’s just an estimate, but there are probably 15 or 20 moose up in Taylor Park,” Wenum said. “Young, male moose, especially, are pretty nomadic. They’ll wander quite a bit and could cover 100 or 150, even 200 miles.” “Younger males are just not dominant and maybe can’t establish or maintain a territory, so if they get booted out they’ll go elsewhere,” Wenum said. Wenum said moose have been introduced at various times and places throughout the state since the late 1970s, in part, because as the Fentimans found out, they’re exciting to see. State wildlife managers also recognize that moose are a unique game animal and at one point, before European settlement took hold in the west, moose were native to the mountains of Colorado. As a result, reintroduction efforts have taken place or moved into areas on all sides of the Gunnison Valley and as close as the upper Rio Grande drainage near Creede. Less than a decade ago, more moose were reintroduced onto the Grand Mesa; the Taylor Park moose have been established for some time. With Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley lying between the growing populations, Wenum expects to hear more about moose sightings. He wants people to understand that they’re big, territorial animals and can be dangerous if they feel threatened. A mother moose with calves can be just as dangerous in June, July and even into August, as a male moose during the rut, in September and October, Wenum said. But when they’re a safe distance away, or on the other side of your bedroom window, moose are a lot of fun to see. “Because they are a big charismatic animal, word will spread really quickly about a sighting, especially in an area that doesn’t typically get them,” he said. “People love to see moose.”