If you’ve lived in the area for even a short period, there is likely one wild animal you’ve seen roaming our hills. The majestic moose. These giant creatures, for the most part, only cause harm to our trees. Due to their size and the fact that they are indeed wild animals, they do occasionally hurt people and their canine companions, but that is a rare event. Unfortunately, these animals are coming under attack from an unlikely source. Us.
It seems that some residents across the area have started calling Utah’s Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), because they are fearful of what the animals might do to their children, property, or animals. The DWR then often shows up and “transplants” the moose to another area. The resident goes on blissfully unaware and is generally happy that the moose has been “relocated to “greener pastures.” What they don’t realize is that they are issuing a death sentence for the poor animal.
According to the local wildlife preservation group, Save People Save Wildlife, of the 320 moose that have been transplanted within Utah, 280 of them have died, in at least part part, due to their relocation. That is a survival rate of only 12.5%, or put another way, 87% of transplanted moose don’t make it. A number of factors could contribute to this outcome; however a Utah Department of Natural Resources document says that they don’t have a definitive answer of why transplants don’t work here. Some people speculate that since moose live most of their lives in a 10 mile radius, being transplanted out of an area causes too much trauma.
While the near-certain-death of transplanted moose is obviously the largest concern, we also have to consider what transplanting moose will mean for the character of the Park City area. If the statistic about moose living their lives in a ten mile radius is valid at all, when a moose is moved from the Park City area, that moose is not coming back. That moose is not having calves. At some point the population will dwindle, the moose will be gone, and we will be missing a very special part of our community.
Many residents of Jeremy Ranch, an area that has seen many moose relocated this year, are taking matters into their own hands. On local message boards they are imploring people to not share where and when they see moose. Instead they text their immediate neighbors to give them a heads up that a moose is in area, so they can ensure the safety of their children and pets. Members of the community are also saying that the Department of Wildlife Resources may be violating Utah State Code by not following specific measures required by law when transplanting big game. They are approaching the Executive Director of the DWR to ensure they are aware of actions being taken by their employees and to share the public’s concerns.
While moose can be dangerous, especially in the fall and when the mothers have young calves, most of us have learned how co-exist with them without problems. After all, they were here first. And as I often tell my 3 year old after we see a moose… “We are pretty darn lucky. There aren’t too many people that get to see a moose as often as we do.”
I believe most of us view ourselves as stewards of this great area we live in. We take pride in it. We enjoy the wildlife. We appreciate that we aren’t living in Sandy. I think sometimes we just forget that we also owe this land something in return. In this case, we owe it to the moose, to find a way to continue living together. We need to ensure that this is a place that those majestic animals can continue to call their own. If we lose them, this place won’t quite seem like home anymore.
Below is a ABC 4 segment on the issue…
h/t to Walter for suggesting this as a topic