NEBRASKAland July 2016

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 43 of 79

44 NEBRASKAland • JULY 2016 A s the largest deer species in the world, moose are sure to get noticed when they enter a scene. In a state such as Nebraska, not historically known as "moose country," even more people are sure to turn their heads when the big knobby-kneed creatures make an entrance. With an upsurge of moose sightings in Nebraska during the past year, the species hasn't gotten this much attention here since the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was airing on Saturday morning television. Moose sightings, while rare, are not new to Nebraska – at least in recent history. Confirmed sightings of at least one moose have been recorded in the Panhandle each of the past five years. While most of the sightings have been in the North Platte River valley near Gering, moose have been seen as far east as Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area near Lake McConaughy in those years. In 2015 and 2016, however, moose expanded to what is surely an unprecedented range for Nebraska. From observations and encounters, wildlife officials have noticed enough distinguishing characteristics to believe at least five wild moose could be living in the state, the most ever known to be here at once. Their best estimate puts the count at two bulls and three cows ranging from 2-4 years of age. At least a couple of those animals haven't exactly been stealthy while moving eastward. Since late winter 2014-2015, moose sightings of one or more of the five specimens have been made near, and occasionally even in, communities from west to east. They include Gering, Crawford, Bridgeport, Lodgepole, Rushville, Tryon, North Platte, Maywood, Thedford, Merna, Broken Bow, Ord, Cody, Valentine, Sutherland, Orchard, Verdigre, North Loup and Scotia. Although Commission staff can't be certain, the location and order of sightings suggest the moose are moving in to the state along the North Platte River Valley at the Wyoming border and traveling eastward. The specimens also appear to be of the Shiras (Alces alces shirasi) subspecies native to the Rocky Mountains, furthering suspicions they are likely migrants from the West. While many other moose populations in North America are on the decline, the population in the Snowy Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Wyoming is thriving. Colorado wildlife officials arranged for a transplant of two dozen moose to that area in the late 1970s and the population soon flourished. Researchers in recent years have witnessed moose moving northeast from the Snowy Range in the south- central part of Wyoming into the Laramie Range. Moose have been occasionally seen north of that range in Casper, Wyoming, along the North Platte River. The Big Horn and Wind River ranges to the west and northwest of there, while farther away, also have moose populations. It's conceivable animals could be moving in from there, too. It's when moose become stubborn against leaving populated areas that they get the most attention. Because By Justin Haag MOOSE ON THE MOVE A big animal has garnered big attention in Nebraska in recent months.

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