What comes to mind when you think of the most dangerous animal in the Eagle Valley? Perhaps you imagine an elusive mountain lion, stalking its prey under the guise of twilight. Or could the Black Bear, scavenging through your trash to find a tasty treat, be a top contender? Surprisingly, the most dangerous animal in the Eagle Valley is not even a predator. Rather, the title undisputedly goes to the humble moose. In Colorado, moose have been responsible for more attacks on humans than any predator species found in the region.
Interestingly, moose are not even native to our state. Not until 1978, when the Colorado Division of Wildlife released a small group in the state’s north park region, was the largest member of the deer family seen roaming Colorado’s montane forests and wetlands. Since then, the state’s moose population has grown in size, and is an iconic member of Colorado’s wildlife population. Our valley now lies on the southern border of the moose’s home range, which extends as far north as central Alaska.
Standing at an impressive 5 ½ to 7 feet tall at the shoulder, and weighing in excess of 1,100 pounds, moose make a formidable foe. Don’t let their seemingly clumsy nature fool you, they are surprisingly capable athletes. Moose are can swim for several hours on end, and even hold their breath for a minute while diving to depths of up to 20 feet. At full stride, a moose is capable of running 35 miles per hour. In case you think you would like to toe the line with one of these animals, keep in mind that the fastest Olympic sprinter was clocked at only 28 miles per hour.
If you are daring enough to seek a glimpse of Colorado’s most dangerous animal, and possibly test your Olympic sprinting skills, you need only take a look in our valley’s riparian areas. In the summer, the Piney Lake area is famous for its reliable Moose viewing. The trails near Minturn, including Grouse Creek, Whiskey Creek, and Martin Creek, are also common places to find Moose foraging in the scrublands forests. Open, southerly slopes are particularly popular in the winter months. Snow depths here are generally shallower and the shrubby vegetation provides consistent winter forage. As the snow melts, pay particular attention to marshy areas near streams, lakes, and ponds. Moose consume 50-80 pounds of food per day, 80% of which consists of the wood, twigs, and branches from willows and aspens. The remainder of their diet is typically composed of aquatic plants found in these riparian corridors. Travel through these areas carefully if you want to catch a glimpse of this not-so-gentle giant.
So Happy Moosing to all, and remember that wildlife need their personal space just as much as we do. Moose viewing is best enjoyed from a safe distance, so bring your binoculars or telephoto lens and enjoy!
This curious nature was written by the team at Walking Mountains Science Center. Come join us for free daily nature walks every afternoon from 2-3pm.