It seems I always just missed it: it was down among the willows or close to the road, but by the time I got there it’s gone. My sister saw it three times this summer: once she and her dog were walking on Big Owl and the moose, with its young one, was acting in a somewhat aggressive manner, enough so that she went out of her way to avoid it; another time she and her family were on their back deck and their dog suddenly started staring intently at something.
The moose have taken a long time to make their way to Meeker Park, which is maybe why they are such a big deal—that, and their size, which is immense. Bulls may reach a height of 6½ to 7½ feet at the shoulder, and weigh from 800 to 1,600 pounds, according to the Rocky Mountain National Park website. And when you add in their huge antlers, they seem even more imposing.
They were first introduced into Colorado in 1978 and 1979 by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which transferred two groups of moose (12 each year) from Wyoming to North Park in Colorado. I’ve never understood why, because there seem to be no evidence that moose were ever permanent residents of Colorado.
They soon migrated down into the western part of Rocky Mountain National Park, but it took them a long time to figure out how to cross the divide into the eastern side. I saw my first moose on this side about five years ago, when I was hiking up to Cub Lake, and it emerged from the willows. I was so excited I took a dozen photos and thought about showing it to the rangers, as if I had made the first sighting of moose in this part of the park. In the following years, I started seeing them more frequently, especially in areas with lakes and willows.
Both male and female moose have reputations for being unpredictable and aggressive. Again, from the RMNP website: “Rutting bull moose have charged horses, cars, and locomotives. The female is particularly protective of her calf. The moose has a top speed of 35 miles per hour.”
Which is why I was surprised to see an elderly couple, about a month ago on the Fern Lake trail in the park, slowly walking down the hill from where a moose was sitting among the grasses and bushes. She was walking with a cane, wearing a dress and city shoes, while he supported her, not walking too steadily himself. Did they think this was Disneyland, that they could get close enough to pet it? If this animal had decided to charge them, there was no way they would have been able to escape.
Other people were grouped at the bottom of the hill, directing others’ gaze toward the moose. It’s obvious that the moose has become the latest celebrity animal in the park, replacing the elk as the traffic stopper. Yet I can’t help but wonder; if you introduce an animal that doesn’t belong here, does it push out other animals and take over? The park service has been trying to reduce the number of elk because they compete with the beavers for willows. Yet the moose’s main food is willow. Like everyone else, I enjoy seeing the moose, but I’m not sure it belongs here.