Police: Wildlife contact in Steamboat is concerning | SteamboatToday.com

Police: Wildlife contact in Steamboat is concerning

Jack Weinstein

— The season's heavy snowfall has coaxed more wildlife into Steamboat Springs city limits, making incidents like one from Sunday more common. It also has wildlife officials concerned about the interaction between humans and animals.

While on patrol Sunday, Steamboat Springs Police Department Sgt. Sam Silva saw a man approaching a moose in the 1400 block of Steamboat Boulevard. Silva said the 91-year-old man was trying to feed the moose apple slices out of his hand.

"He was less than a foot or two away," he said. "It caught my attention."

Silva said he got the man safely away from the moose and into his home until it left. He issued the man a warning because it's illegal to feed wildlife.

Jim Haskins, area wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said a higher concentration of moose and elk in residential areas has resulted in people trying to feed the animals. He advised against feeding or approaching any wildlife.

"You have no idea what they'll do, and quite frankly a moose is more unpredictable than anything we deal with," Haskins said. "More so than bears and elk, (moose) can be very aggressive.

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"It's not a petting zoo out there."

Haskins said his biggest concern with wildlife's presence in residential areas is the risk that, if provoked, the animals will attack people. If an animal injures a person, he said DOW officers have to kill it, something they had to do three years ago with an aggressive moose at Steamboat Ski Area.

There's a perception that elk aren't well fed because more are showing up in residential areas, Haskins said. But he said while they're more mobile this winter, there's food for them in many winter range areas. He said they just have to find them and sometimes that puts them in backyards, parks and on streets.

However, Haskins said that the deep snow might lead to higher mortality rates among elk calves this winter, but not with bulls or cows. He said there have been a few incidences of calves and weaker adults that have been abandoned by the herd.

Haskins said early snow, snow in areas that don't typically get a lot of accumulation, wet snow and cold weather created conditions that made wildlife travel difficult. But he said the thinning of elk herds is not unusual.

"Winter mortality, it's just normal," Haskins said.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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