Drivers in Northern New Mexico were treated to a rare sighting Tuesday (September 18) when a moose decided to take a stroll near Costilla.
Walking along State Road 522, the visiting moose was the …
Drivers in Northern New Mexico were treated to a rare sighting Tuesday (Sept. 18) when a moose decided to take a stroll near Costilla.
Walking along State Road 522, the visiting moose was the subject of several photos and phone calls to wildlife offices in the area as the sighting marked a rare occasion in New Mexico wildlife history. A moose was sighted in Chama in 2017 and for the first time, Costilla welcomes a moose to its environs.
"This is the third moose that I have heard of in Northern New Mexico in 23 years,” said Clint Henson, captain of northeast field operations for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "It's definitely not unheard of. Young bulls like that tend to move and try and find new territory," Henson said. "I think moose are much more adaptable than we think."
Moose originally come from the northern parts of the Americas and are scarcely seen in the wild in the southern parts of the United States. Colorado introduced the Shiras subspecies of moose in the 1970s to some of the state's northern reaches in an effort to expand the roaming area of the animals. Shiras moose are slightly smaller than moose found in Alaska and have slightly smaller antlers than their northern cousins.
Efforts were made to introduce 12 moose into Colorado in the late 1970s and continued when the population began to thrive in their new environment. Dozens of moose were brought from Wyoming and Utah over the years, and the Colorado population rose as the decades went on.
"They have really thrived in all the areas we have brought them into,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rebecca Ferrell. "There is now even some limited licenses (for hunting) in the state.”
According to Ferrell, Colorado has become a second home for the moose population and has even brought festivals to towns such as Walden, where the moose is celebrated.
Ferrell said the most recent push for the introduction of moose in Colorado happened in the 1990s in Creede, Colorado, nearly 60 miles from the New Mexico border. The animals then migrated to find food and mates, expanding their territory and eventually finding their way into New Mexico.
Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado have similar climates and biomes, so it is not uncommon for the animals to roam within their habitats, wildlife biologists say.
Still, moose sightings remain rare.
"I was shocked when I saw the thing and I said, 'That's not a cow,'” laughed Bob Friedrichs, who spotted the moose. "All this country is sagebrush, so it's not typical moose habitat.”
Friedrichs said he was traveling on the road when he spotted the moose and said he had never seen one in the area. Despite the traffic and human dwellings, Friedrichs said the moose seemed comfortable walking around in its new environment.
Wildlife officials are encouraging the public not to approach the moose if spotted and to remember that it is a wild animal. Moose are fast despite their size, and Ferrell advised not to try and outrun one should it charge. Instead, officials said to get behind a tree or other obstacle and stay out of the animal's way.
"They look at things like dogs as a threat," Ferrell said. "Always keep your dog on a leash if you’re in an area where a moose has been spotted.”
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