Hunters, wildlife officers rescue moose from deep bog in Routt National Forest
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It sounds a bit like a riddle: If a moose falls into a bog in the forest, how do you get it out?
Late last month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Assistant Area Manager Josh Dilley and five hunters in Routt National Forest found themselves answering that question as a cow moose was up to her head in water and unable to get out of a steep-sided bog near Fish Creek Reservoir.
“I don’t know how you do it every time, but this time we used two tow straps, and a catch pole,” Dilley said.
Adult moose can weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds, though females are typically smaller than bull moose. Their primary food source is willows, and moose tend to hang around wet areas where those shrubs grow. Dilley said this moose likely went in to cool off or to get a drink, then found herself unable to get out.
Dilley gave a lot of credit to the hunters who helped pull the cow out.
“I was just proud of the hunters to step up and help this animal,” he said. “They could have just went on their way and continued with their hunt, but they didn’t. They stepped up and helped her out, so that was pretty great for them.”
Dilley had been dispatched to the area of Fish Creek Reservoir to respond to a hunter’s report that a cow moose was stuck in a bog. At the trailhead, he asked a bow hunter he encountered if he knew where a moose was stuck in a bog. He did, and he had a rope in hand and was ready to try to help it. He joined Dilley in a hike to the spot.
“As we were walking out there to work on it, we’d pass some other hunters on the trail, and we just kind of gathered guys up for help as we went,” Dilley said.
The bog was essentially a hole in the ground filled with water and steep, muddy sides on which she couldn’t get footing. The yearling cow moose was almost entirely submerged, with only her head sticking out of the water. By the time they launched the rescue mission, the cow was growing tired and having difficulty keeping her head up. Dilley estimated she had been there under 24 hours.
Dilley said he used a catch pole to hold her nose and mouth above the water, while the others worked to loop the tow straps around the creature’s burly body, one under her chest and another under her flanks.
“It took a while, and once we were able to do that and get those two tow straps around her, everybody just grabbed the end of the tow straps and we all just started pulling and got her up out of there,” he said.
After getting her out the first time, the moose kicked on the bank and rolled back into the water. They started again. This time though, they had the method down and were able to get the tow straps underneath her more quickly. When they pulled her out a second time, they dragged her farther away.
“When she got out, she rolled over on her side, which isn’t good. You want them sternal. If they get over on their side, they can aspirate and die,” Dilley said.
Dilley and the hunters pushed her up onto her sternum, so she was upright with her legs underneath her and let her rest for a few minutes. After some time to rest, they rocked the moose a bit to get her to stand up, so Dilley could see that she was OK once she was on her feet.
“She stood up and started trotting across the meadow and shook the mud and water off her kind of like a dog shakes and walked up into the timber,” Dilley said.
While a moose stuck in a bog probably isn’t as common as some other wildlife issues — a deer stuck in a fence or other big game damaging property — Dilley said people encountering such a scene should contact Parks and Wildlife.
“Just call us,” Dilley said. “They’re big animals. They can hurt people — not intentionally — but they’re just so big. You don’t really want to mess with them, and in this case, that bog was deep, and we were very, very careful to make sure that nobody was ever in jeopardy of falling in or anything like that because you don’t want to mess with them. You can get hurt.”
Dilley only got the first names of most of the helpful hunters: Brad, Kyle, Josh, Andrew and Sam. Even if they didn’t harvest the animals they were hunting for, they certainly walked out of the woods with a good story.