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Moose on the loose: Utah Division of Wildlife reports 11 incidents, including close calls on I-80

Wildlife is moving to lower elevations at this time of year, so officials urge caution while on the roads.

(Utah Division of Wildlife Resources) Two moose peer out from a trailer while being relocated from Interstate 80 on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has relocated 11 loose moose since Jan. 9 — and most were found wandering on Interstate 80.

On Sunday, the wildlife division and Utah Highway Patrol had to shut down I-80 in both directions in Parleys Canyon to catch two moose who wandered onto the roadway. Over the next few days, the wildlife division completed six more moose relocations, three of which were along the same busy highway.

“Anytime it snows and the snow’s really thick and heavy up in the mountains, moose and deer will migrate down to lower elevation areas, basically looking for food and habitat and things,” wildlife division spokesperson Faith Heaton Jolley said.

DWR personnel were only able to tranquilize and relocate one of the bull moose spotted Jan. 9 on I-80. The other was relocated Monday during a second shutdown of the freeway.

“We have to hike in and get close enough so that we can shoot basically a tranquilizer dart,” Heaton Jolley said. “With moose, because they’re so large, we have to have a lot of manpower because they’re so heavy.”

Once the moose are tranquilized, personnel lift them into a stretcher and carry them into a horse trailer by hand. Once a reversal drug is administered, and they awake, they are released in different habitat areas, she said.

On Jan. 11, personnel responded to the same area of I-80 — the median near the East Canyon exit — to capture a mother moose and her two young bull moose. Two days later, another mother moose and her calf were relocated from further up the interstate near the Parleys Summit wildlife bridge.

“It sounds like they’ve been able to get into the freeway because the snow is so heavy that it’s covered the cattle guards, so they’re able to kind of walk through that,” Heaton Jolley said. “There was also potentially some holes in the fencing.”

She said the wildlife division is working to coordinate with UDOT to get the cow guards cleared out and patch any fence holes.

Four other moose were relocated from more urban areas last week: one at the University of Utah, one on in a neighborhood on Foothill Drive, one in a Millcreek neighborhood another in the city of Alpine.

Although many relocations have been successful, recent collisions have killed some wildlife along I-80, Heaton Jolley said. Three moose and one elk were hit, although no drivers reported injuries in the crashes.

The wildlife division advised drivers to be aware and cautious in low-visibility areas during this time of the year.

If a driver is in an area known for moose crossings, Heaton Jolley recommended driving slower to allow the vehicle time to stop, since swerving to avoid an animal can be dangerous.

“We want to try and prevent any vehicle collisions, especially with moose, because they are so large that it can be quite dangerous,” Heaton Jolley said. “We do ask that people report [moose on roadways] to the nearest DWR office so that we can come out and relocate those animals.”

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