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'Nuisance' moose may be relocated to West Tavaputs

Moose like this cow will be tranquilized and transported.

Sun Advocate associate editor

Imagine your drive going into the rough on some golf course and in your search for the ball you encounter the moose you've accidentally hit. You're facing about 1,000 pounds of black-furred anger that stands six feet or taller at the shoulder, antler-armed and dangerous.

This is what is known as a nuisance moose. Yes, they do show up on northern Utah golf courses and occasionally wandering on city streets. So what's to be done with a nuisance moose?

How about moving him or her to the Tavaputs Plateau? There's a plan in the works to do just that.

There are no moose depicted on the ancient rock of of Nine Mile and Range Creek canyons, but that doesn't mean they weren't around then, and it certainly doesn't mean they are not around there now.

Brad Crompton, a wildlife biologist with Division of Wildlife Resources, estimates that there are already about 30 of the big herbivores on the plateau above the canyons. Plans call for a target population of 100 over the next few years.

"The landowners up there are on board with the plan. In fact, they've asked for more moose," he said. This population project won't be just for the private property owners up there, though.

A lot of the land is in cooperative wildlife management units, a public-private agreement that allows 50 percent of the hunting permits issued to go to the general public.

Crompton explained that the DWR settled on the Nine Mile Unit for increasing moose numbers because the climate and habitat are right for moose. They like to browse serviceberry and mountain mahogany, and they are adapted to the arctic conditions up there. Long legs enable them to wade through deep snow.

The Tavaputs is well south of what Crompton calls the "magic line" for moose habitat in Utah - basically Highway 40 - but at 10,000 feet the plateau should be suitably cold with the right diet.

The evidence for that is the moose that have already been spotted during elk surveys up there. The fact that moose are not considered an exotic species in this locale makes it somewhat easier to move through the long process of permitting for the relocation. "We're only augmenting an existing population," he said.

There won't be a massive roundup of moose, either. They'll be captured one at a time.

And one is plenty, if you're the one doing the capturing. "We have to use a fast tranquilizer," Crompton explained. This one takes about two minutes to put the moose on the ground. A slower tranquilizer works fine for a bear in a tree, but a moose can be miles away in the ten or fifteen minutes between the darting and the nap.

But two minutes is still a very long time to be around an animal that weighs around a half ton and does not like you. Crompton said he has seen them crash into parked vehicles in a rage. "We've had to pay for some damages," he chuckled.

Once the moose is down, it's a matter of teamwork getting it into a horse trailer and driving up to Bruin Point. Once at the top, an injection of wake-up juice will neutralize the tranquilizer effect and the moose is let go.

If all goes according to plan, the gradual transplantation will begin this summer.

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