Disturbing video of a bull moose with its antlers caught on a backyard swing is a prime example of the hazards of attracting wildlife to a residential area, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials explained.
Recorded at the home of a Summit County resident who admitted to using salt to attract the animal, the footage shows the angry bull moose struggling with the swing's rope wrapped around its antlers while wildlife officers attempt to free it. After several difficult hours in its predicament, CPW officers were able to subdue the moose long enough to cut the rope. Appearing relatively unharmed although significantly stressed from its ordeal, the moose first charged its rescuers before running off.
Wildlife officials say human-provided food and other attractants are a leading cause of conflicts and incidents like this in which humans are injured, pets are attacked or wildlife is killed.
"These homeowners told me that they enjoy watching wildlife so they put the salt lick out to attract moose and other animals," said District Wildlife Manager Tom Davies of Silverthorne. "The fact that they caused the moose to suffer like it did and putting the officers in such a dangerous situation is a clear example of how irresponsible attracting wildlife to your home or neighborhood can be."
To reduce the possibility of it dying during the rescue, wildlife officers used a taser to subdue the moose. Although still being evaluated for this type of use by CPW, the non-lethal device, used by many police and sheriff's departments, has also proven effective for managing a variety of larger wildlife. Using an electrical current, the taser temporarily immobilizes an animal allowing officers to safely approach and free wildlife tangled in swings, hammocks, fences and other obstacles. In some cases, the device can also be useful in hazing an animal away from human populated areas.
“It was a difficult and dangerous situation but the taser worked exactly as we had hoped," said Davies. "Tranquilization drugs were an option but considering how stressed the moose became during this precarious situation, it would have likely killed the animal. The taser is proving to be very useful for a situation like this."
Davies said that the residents did not receive a citation in this case, but did receive a stern warning in addition to the significant shame they experienced by putting the moose and wildlife officers in danger.
"If they put out any food or salt licks again to attract wildlife, they will be fined," said Davies. "And that goes for anyone else who does something like this."
In addition to being illegal, placing food, salt or other attractants out for wildlife is unethical and has many serious consequences. It habituates wild animals to humans and can lead to severe digestive problems and possibly death in ungulates. Illegal feeding may also change wildlife migration and behavior patterns, encouraging elk and deer to remain in residential areas year-round, consequently attracting lions to the neighborhood. It can also increase wildlife mortality due to vehicle collisions. Leaving garbage unsecured can attract bears resulting in the death of the bear and posing a danger to humans as well.
"People feeding foxes and coyotes, which is a major problem in this area and across the state, can make them lose their fear of humans and this is when they can get dangerous," says Davies. "If a person is bitten, we have to remove the offending animal to prevent future injuries and also collect a sample to test for disease. In many cases, it becomes necessary to remove multiple animals to ensure a conflict fox or coyote is removed."
In addition to the dangers of feeding and attracting predators, wildlife officers say that encouraging a large, powerful moose to a residential area is a bad idea for multiple reasons.
"The video clearly shows how powerful and aggressive a moose can get when it feels threatened," said Davies. "Although predators in a residential area are a significant concern, little compares to the danger of having a moose near your home."
For more information about living responsibly with wildlife, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlife.aspx