Moose dies at Keystone Resort after becoming entangled in cords of snowmaking equipment

On Thursday, September 15, 2022, there will be a light dust of snow on the peaks of the Keystone ski area.
Katie Young/Keystone Resort

A moose died at Keystone Resort in what wildlife managers call an accident they’ve never seen before.

The bull died after becoming entangled in power cables connected to a snow machine. Rachael Gonzales, spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said no one she spoke to at the agency had ever seen an animal die under similar circumstances at a ski resort.

The cause of death for the moose was fang myopathy, or a non-contagious disease in animals in which muscle damage is caused by extreme exertion, combat, or stress, according to Parks and Wildlife.

According to a 2019 study published by the National Library of Medicineit is most common in wild animals rather than domestic animals, and treatment rates for animals with capture myopathy are often “poor”.

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“It’s basically just this stress on his body,” Gonzales said. “Probably trying to free himself from the tangle caused his body to actually shut down.”

During this time of year, moose look for ways to rub off the velvet left on their antlers. Because they have to rub the velvet, accidents like this are more likely now than at other times of the year, according to reports from Parks and Wildlife. Animals with horns often get caught on objects, but Gonzales said they’re more likely to get tangled on swings or volleyball nets.

Gonzales said wildlife managers at Estes Park were able to resolve a similar situation involving a bull moose that became entangled in a fence. The moose was tangled in the fence and responsive wildlife managers calmed the moose before successfully freeing it.

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Gonzales said there is no formal process for reporting incidents where an animal accidentally dies, and most calls come from incidents involving larger animals like moose or deer. When an investigation into an animal death takes place, wildlife managers collect testimonies from any witnesses and look around the area to find out what might have happened. Gonzales said every situation is different.

She added that staff at the resort called Parks and Wildlife when they spotted the moose, but by then it was too late to do anything about it.

“We always encourage people to call. If you happen to have the phone number for your local conservation officer, give them a call,” she said. “If not, it’s just as well to call the office for your region.”

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Sometimes animals can also prevent themselves from becoming tangled on their own, but Gonzales said it’s still important to call wildlife officials because it gives the department a chance to assess the situation.

Video of the incident provided to the Colorado Sun shows the moose being removed from the area by being pulled by a truck.

Parks and Wildlife is working with the resort to prevent such an accident from happening again.

Sara Lococo, Keystone Resort’s senior communications manager, said in a statement that the event was a “sad and rare accident.”

“The moose was located near the middle station of the River Run Gondola and as part of the guidance we received from (Parks and Wildlife) we were given permission to take the moose a short distance into a wooded area just below found to clothe the moose in order to be able to donate the meat,” Vail Resorts wrote in its statement.

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