Wildlife officers relocate moose from Rasmussen Road after it approached interstate
Several calls to Utah Highway Patrol Monday about a bull moose wandering dangerously close to Interstate 80 on Rasmussen Road prompted wildlife officers to take action.
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Matthews said reports started coming in about the animal around 8 a.m. He said callers told dispatch the adult male moose appeared to be trying to cross the road to reach the west side of the interstate, adding that troopers have responded to multiple reports this year of accidents involving the large animals.
“We got it back down onto Rasmussen Road and then we were obviously trying to get it to go back up the mountainside away from people and traffic,” he said. “We didn’t want it to get hit by a car or charge a person. But, it was being pretty stubborn.”
The animal, exhausted, eventually rested in a snowbank on a side street off of Rasmussen Road near Park City Brewery after about two hours. Troopers flanked the animal with their vehicles until officers with the Division of Wildlife Resources arrived around 11:30 a.m.
The officers gave the moose a tranquilizer and loaded it into a trailer. It was relocated to an undisclosed area in South Summit. Eric Anderson, a Division of Wildlife Resources wildlife biologist, said relocation was the safest option for everyone, including the moose.
“After talking with UHP, it sounded like they had pushed the moose quite a bit and it was very exhausted,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t get that it is still a wild animal, and if it ever got enough energy it could be very agitated and could cause harm.”
The animal was given a reversal drug to reduce the effects of the tranquilizer while it was in a horse trailer to ensure it would be awake when it was released, Anderson said. The agency did not plan to track the animal.
Tranquilizing wildlife is a last resort, but it tends to happen more often around this time of year, Anderson said. He said moose tend to be spotted more near populated areas and an average of about 20 moose are relocated in March each year away from towns.
“When a cow moose gives birth, that calf is with that female for a year and a half and then they are kicked out,” he said. “It’s kind of like a teenager who is kind of lost trying to find their way around. Sometimes they get into trouble.”
Anderson also attributed the animal’s movements to growth in the Snyderville Basin.
“All of that development in Park City is on wildlife habitat,” he said. “All of those homes have taken the habitat they need to survive. They’re greatest threat is development. That’s why we see them around lower elevations. Not because of all the snow.”
Homes in neighborhoods like Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook have been built on what is considered the animals’ winter range, Anderson said.
“I would highly recommend people give the wildlife their space,” he said. “More times than not, if they are there, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are in trouble or in the wrong spot. Give them a day or two and they will usually be gone.”
Not everyone near the scene supported the decision to relocate the moose. Erin Ferguson, a member of the organization Save People Save Wildlife, said officials should have taken a different approach. The organization has advocated for more wildlife fencing along the interstate to prevent collisions between vehicles and wildlife.
Ferguson said she has seen the moose hanging around the area for the last six weeks and would have preferred if the wildlife officers had left it alone.
“I just think education is the answer. Not relocation,” she said. “Relocation is a big deal and it compromises the safety of not only the moose, but the officers involved. The point is no one is advocating for this moose right now. They just want him gone. It’s very frustrating.”
Ferguson said she didn’t want the moose to get hit on the freeway. But, she suggested additional signage and lower speed limits along that stretch of the interstate could reduce the risk of accidents if the animals wind up on the interstate.
“This could have played out differently. I just think it is an opportunity for these public servants to at least listen and maybe come up with another answer,” she said. “They saw it as a problem that they needed to solve and that is the impression they are conveying. They need to approach it differently. We have hardly any moose left so we need to take care of what we got. Let’s grab onto this opportunity and say this is our stepping stone.”
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