Heavy Park City snow forces wildlife to lower elevations
Moose sightings, accidents reported in weeks since storms
The heavy snows this winter have drawn skiers and snowboarders up the mountains.
But the weather has also drawn animals down the mountains.
There has been a series of wildlife sightings in Park City recently, as the snow piled up at the higher elevations during a relentless series of storms that stretched for several weeks starting late in 2016. The animals must descend to lower elevations during heavy snows in search for food since sources at the higher elevations become covered.
Moose, deer and elk are plentiful in the Park City area, and the Park City Police Department has fielded reports in recent weeks about animal sightings in or close to neighborhoods. There have also been at least two bad traffic accidents involving animals since early in January.
“When you get the deep snow like this . . . It can impact on big game animals,” said Scott Root, the state Division of Wildlife Resources conservation outreach manager in the region that includes the Park City area.
He noted there has been a stretch of relatively mild winters in the area followed by this year’s snow. Root said the Division of Wildlife Resources observed animals moving to the lower elevations after the first significant snowfall. The migration down from the mountains became evident around New Year’s, he said. The animals forage for food once they reach the lower elevations.
“If things get too deep, they may come down looking for vegetation,” Root said.
The Police Department has logged several human-animal encounters recently. In at least two cases, the animal was either killed or needed to be put down afterward.
Two drivers hit a moose at almost the same time on S.R. 224 in January, killing the animal. The moose was attempting to cross the state highway close to the intersections with Meadows Drive and Holiday Ranch Loop Road when it was hit by the two vehicles. The Police Department said at the time each of the vehicles suffered damage estimated at several thousand dollars. The people in the vehicles were not injured. Later in January, a bus hit a moose on S.R. 224, leaving the animal with injuries that required it be put down.
In late January, meanwhile, a cow moose and a calf were seen bedded down close to a pool on Park Avenue. Police Department logs said people visiting Park City for the Sundance Film Festival were approaching the animals. There were at least two moose sightings in Park City two days earlier, including a cow moose and a calf in the road near the intersection of Marsac Avenue and Hillside Avenue. In the other case that day, two moose were seen close to the road along S.R. 224.
Police officers who respond to wildlife sightings typically ensure an animal does not become a hazard for drivers as well as stop people from approaching the animal.
Root said wildlife officials hope for warmer temperatures and an early spring that would allow the moose to move to higher elevations.
Wild Aware Utah has published tips for living in a place inhabited by moose. The tips are available at: http://www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/moose. The tips, as published on the website, include:
- Moose cows with calves can be aggressive in the spring.
- Bull moose may be especially aggressive during the fall breeding season.
- Do not approach or feed a moose.
- Keep dogs leashed and under control at all times. Moose can be very aggressive around them. It is against Utah law to allow dogs to chase or harass wildlife.If you encounter a moose:
- On a trail, give the moose a lot of space and watch it’s behavior.
- Back off if a moose exhibits any signs of aggression, such as the hair standing up on their neck, snout licking, or ears back.
- Stay calm. Do not run away. Talk, make your presence known and slowly back off in the direction you came.
- If a moose charges you or chases you hide behind something solid such as a tree.
- If a moose knocks you down, curl into a ball, protect your head and lie still until the moose retreats.
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The Park City Police Department on Saturday, May 8, received at least three complaints from businesses in the Main Street core. In one of the cases, a customer was outside “causing a scene,” according to department logs.