Moose die mysteriously in Basin | ParkRecord.com
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Moose die mysteriously in Basin

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff
State wildlife biologists examine a moose carcass Friday in Snyderville. Photo by Scott Sine/Park Record

Louisiana resident Mark Carter said it was thrilling for his family to see a mother moose with a calf trotting through Park City during a ski vacation last week.

"That was the first moose that I had ever seen," he said during a telephone interview Monday.

But what happened next distressed him as he watched the moose in Snyderville north of McPolin Farm.

"The moose were moving just at a normal pace, not stressed or anything," he said.

The cow moose then walked away from the yearling, Carter said, adding, "it looked liked that calf was a little stressed."

After both moose bedded down in the snow he contacted state wildlife officials.

"When I left, the cow was still breathing," Carter said, adding that he was "shocked" to find out last Friday that both moose had died. "There was nothing indicative, other than the calf was, what I considered, acting a little stressed when it laid down."

Meanwhile, biologists say they may never know how the moose died.

"They were walking down the creek and the next minute they were both dead," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Sgt. Scott White said, adding that the deaths are "very unusual."

The roughly 6-year-old cow and yearling female were reportedly running in a creek near S.R. 224 before they collapsed.

"First, the yearling went down and kicked for a minute. The bigger moose stopped and within minutes she was down floundering," DWR conservation officer Dave Swenson said. "I’ve been doing this for 27 years and this is kind of unheard of for two moose to be healthy one minute and drop over dead within minutes of each other the next."

Officers were called to the scene April 6 around 2 p.m.

"[Witnesses] were a little upset," Swenson said, adding that the moose were dead when he arrived. "Another family from New Jersey had never seen moose and they were at a loss. Why would these moose just tip over?"

Biologists, who spent four hours taking tissue samples from the animals the next morning, hope to determine how the moose died by examining portions of their hearts, lungs, eyeballs and other organs. But that could take weeks.

"We found no obvious cause these animals appeared to be relatively healthy," Swenson said. "They were not emaciated."

Park City residents sometimes plant non-native vegetation in their yards, that when ingested, can kill moose. The animals could have also caught a parasite, Swenson said, adding that the moose weren’t shot.

"Right now, it’s a mystery. Moose are kind of fragile animals. They’re susceptible to a number of ailments," he said, adding, "I’m thinking more in terms of stress, from maybe, they ran a great distance that day."

The same day the moose died a dispatcher received a report that a cow moose was caught in a fence in the same area west of S.R. 224, Swenson said. He believes the two dead moose were seen that day around noon near Kearns Boulevard.

The deaths were an isolated incident, Swenson said, adding, "I don’t think there is anything widespread in our moose population."

"People in this area love to stop even if they’ve seen them a dozen times a week," the officer said. It’s an unusual set of circumstances. I’m at a loss for an explanation."


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