Getting a moose to move is never easy, especially a moose that isn't interested in moving.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, however, has found an answer. With the right kind of persuasion, the big, ill-tempered animal with the oversized head becomes as peaceful as a sleeping cat.Over the last three days the DWR has "tamed" 30 of the long-legged beasts in the Ogden Canyon area, east of Pineview Reservoir.
The purpose of this project is to widen distribution of moose in Utah by moving animals from areas of high concentration to areas of low numbers or no moose. Over the last four years 120 moose have been air lifted off the northern hills and trucked to new locations.
Ten of the trapped moose this year went to the Currant Creek area on the south slope of the Uintas to supplement a growing herd. The remaining 20 were put on the Ute Indian reservation to establish a new herd.
They were taken from the Ogden Canyon area because of the high concentration of moose there. According to game biologist Jeff Grandison, project leader for the DWR, the moose herd there is almost too large.
"Two years ago we counted 340 head in the area. This year there were more than 600. Some of this is natural population growth and some of it is animals moving in from other areas because of the drought.
"We are getting a high calf crop here. I'd say it was over 50 percent, which is very good," he pointed out.
"As the herd grows, however, production decreases. We calculate that one moose per square mile is good. The concentration here is a little higher."
What made this move go so smoothly is a drug called "A-30-80." It can, in minutes, turn a beast that can reach six-feet at the shoulders and weigh over 1,000 pounds, into something resembling a giant stuffed toy.
The drug, said Scott McJames of the University of Utah Anesthesiology Department, works on the animal's central nervous system. The animal is alert and awake, but it's system is too depressed to allow it to move.
The catch-and-remove program for moose involves use of two helicopters and about a dozen men.
The moose is first spotted from the smaller, more maneuverable of the two helicopters. Once within close range, a marksman shoots the animal with a small dart that injects the drug into the moose.
When the animal is down, a ground crew fits the moose into a sling and then blindfolds the animal.
The larger of the two helicopters then flies in, picks up the sling on a 50-foot cable, and transports it to a loading site.
Carefully, the moose is lowered onto a small flat-bed trailer. There a team of biologists checks the animal's temperature, age and heart rate. The moose is tagged and some are fitted with radio collars.
This completed, the moose is carried into a horse trailer. There a second drug is given to reverse the depressant. In a matter of minutes the moose is on its feet, alert and moving around . . . ready for transportation.
Because the moose is a solitary animals, only cows with calves travel together. Others have their own stalls.
It is estimated that there are currently about 3,000 moose in Utah - A population that amounts to 2,999 more than at the turn of the century.
The first sighting of moose in Utah was reported in 1906 when one was killed at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon. The next sighting wasn't until 1918 in the Bear River drainage of the north slopes of the Uintas. It wasn't until the mid-1950s that a moose herd was recognized. In 1957, an aerial survey found 59 moose along the north slope.
The first in-state transplant was made in 1973, when 18 animals were taken from the north slope area. Early trappings, though, drew some criticism. Drugs used at that time sometimes results in death to the animal.
According to Grandison there have been no drug-related deaths in the last four years. The new drug - "A-30-80" - has been in use for two years.