Popular Steamboat trail reopens after lingering moose causes concern
The Rotary Park boardwalk reopened Thursday afternoon, May 18, following a precautionary closure caused by a female moose blocking the path leading to the popular area adjacent to the Yampa River Core Trail.
“I got the call yesterday that there were some folks trapped out on the boardwalk, because there’s just that one way on and off of it and (the moose) was laying pretty much right on the trail,” said David Rehak Suma, a wildlife officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“She was kind of hard-pressed to get up and moving, so it was within the realm of possibility that this was a female who was looking for a good place to bed down and have a calf. Given that people could get trapped out on that boardwalk, we decided to put up the closure signs.”
Rehak Suma added that the moose was not aggressive and that the briefly trapped trail users were able to exit the boardwalk before he arrived. He wasn’t sure if the moose was pregnant, but because of the time of year, officials moved forward as if she was.
The moose remained in the area overnight, and on Thursday afternoon could be seen dining on the vegetation in a flooded area by those passing nearby on the Core Trail. Rehak Suma said it is always important to give wildlife, especially moose, a lot of space. He said wildlife tends to have a protective bubble, and when that bubble is broken the animal is forced to make the hard choice between fight or flight — with neither being good for the animal.
“The more space you can give them, the better,” Rehak Suma said. “If they’re looking at you, they know that you’re there, and they’re thinking that soon they’re going to have to make a decision.”
He added that if the moose’s ears are pinned back or their head drops, the situation is escalating and even greater caution is advised.
“We are well beyond where we want to be if they are pinning their ears back or dropping their head,” Rehak Suma said. “It means that they’re actively making that decision of what they’re going to do next, and probably leaning toward that fight.”
Mike Lane, communications manager for the City of Steamboat Springs, said the boardwalk at Rotary Park closed around 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, and reopened after Colorado Parks and Wildlife had determined that the female moose had left the immediate area late Thursday afternoon. He said that people should still be cautious in the area because the animal could remain close by.
Both Lane and Rehak Suma stressed the importance of respecting wildlife, especially this time of year when wildlife has moved into lower areas where it is warmer and the vegetation they feed on is more abundant. Many of the animals will be having babies in the coming weeks, and people need to be aware of what’s around them and to do everything possible to avoid getting between a protective mother and her babies. Rehak Suma said as temperatures get warmer and snow melts from the peaks, wildlife normally tends to move to higher and more remote areas.
“There are just too many variables for us to determine why they are where they are right now,” Rehak Suma said. “It’s nice and warm, and that’s such a relief after the winter that we’ve had. Throw in some good food, and there’s a lot of reason for them to be down here right now.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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