Verify: Are there more moose than ever in Colorado?

They were reintroduced into the state back in 1978 and their population has grown to 3,000!

VERIFY – YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, WE’LL FIND ANSWERS

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THE QUESTION

You've shared and we've shown several moose on the loose videos and pictures in recent weeks, which made us wonder whether their population is growing.

And if there are more moose, are drivers hitting them more often?

WHAT WE FOUND

For answers, we turned to data from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Lauren Truitt, a spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The state reintroduced moose in 1978 when wildlife officials brought 24 moose to the North Park area of the Routt National Forest.

Since then, the population swelled to 1,270 in 2007 and about 3,000 today, according to online data from CPW.

So, there are more of them, but there are also more of us.

The number of humans living in Colorado has gone from 2.7 million in 1978 to about 5.5 million in 2016.

More people and more animals have led to more accidents.

Drivers hit two moose in 2007 and seven moose in 2016, according to CDOT’s online roadkill data. That’s a definite increase, but hitting a moose with a car is still relatively rare.

Colorado drivers are statistically more likely to hit a bear than a moose. And it’s substantially more likely that a large game collision will involve an elk or a deer. Drivers hit 4,617 deer in 2016 alone.

That may be one of the reasons the mule deer population is declining in Colorado.

“Being able to protect both wildlife lives and human lives is critical as our population continues to increase,” Truitt said.

To do that, Colorado borrowed an idea from its neighbors and built a series of wildlife crossings along an 11-mile stretch of State Highway 9 between Kremmling and Silverthorne.

A wildlife crossing is an overpass or underpass that gives animals a safe way to cross the road.

It sounds strange, but animals use them, especially when they’re built along natural migration corridors and coupled with fences.

“The first year -- with a 90 percent reduction in human, animal collisions -- was not something that we expected in year one,” Truitt said. “It was an extreme success to be able to produce those kinds of success rates in that first year.”

CDOT and CPW would love to build more of them along other migration corridors, but there’s one problem: money.

The two overpasses, five underpasses and fencing cost $15.5 million.

The money came from state and local government, environmental groups and some generous private donors.

Everyone in the community came together to make it happen, Truitt said.

That’s partly because from 2007 to 2011, wild animals were the number one cause of vehicle crashes along that stretch of highway.

The road kill count, which is how the state measures animal vs vehicle collisions, averaged 63.6 per year before the crossings, project manager Michelle Cowardin said. It’s now 8.

That’s an 87 percent reduction in the two years the passes have been operational.

“Our goal was 80 percent at five years, so we’re very happy and pleasantly surprised by this number,” Cowardin said.

BOTTOM LINE

Coloradans are seeing more moose and hitting more moose because there are more of them and more of us.

It’s a problem, and it’s one the state is trying to solve.

 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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