The remarkable - and perhaps unnatural - success of the moose (Alces alces shirasi) in Colorado, as evidenced by observations in iNaturalist

@muir @matthewinabinett @davidbygott @aguilita

The moose (Alces alces) was virtually absent from Colorado (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado), at the time in the late 1800's when there was general depletion of large mammals in North America.

The appropriate subspecies, reintroduced/introduced to Colorado about 45 years ago, has become common here, at the southern extreme of the distribution of the species in the world.

Please see https://coloradooutdoorsmag.com/2021/03/03/colorado-moose-reintroduction/ and https://k99.com/colorado-has-one-of-the-fastest-growing-moose-populations-in-u-s/ and https://cpw.state.co.us/documents/wildlifespecies/mammals/moosereintroductionfactsheet.pdf and https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/moose#:~:text=In%20the%201970s%2C%20there%20were,to%20other%20parts%20of%20Colorado. and https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/MooseReintroductionProgram.aspx and https://www.denverpost.com/2017/06/27/colorado-moose-coexisting-people/ and http://peaktocreekfilms.com/comoosefilm and https://www.aspendailynews.com/moose-flourishing-in-colorado/article_56681247-d99a-5e80-bfc1-effeed27b741.html and https://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/many-more-moose-local-population-has-increased-dramatically-in-20-years/ and https://art19.com/shows/colorado-outdoors/episodes/899ceb83-518c-466f-9c27-76207e1ca166 and https://www.coloradovirtuallibrary.org/resource-sharing/state-pubs-blog/viewing-moose-in-colorado/ and https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeMoose.aspx.

The population in Colorado is reported to have reached 3,000 in 2023. Hunting of this, the largest game animal in the state, is now routinely permitted.

What is particularly remarkable about this project is the degree to which it has been apparent to naturalists. The photos of the moose in Colorado, posted in iNaturalist, already exceed 3,000 (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?page=27&place_id=34&taxon_id=522193).

This means that, in a sense, there is one photo for every individual of the moose in Colorado. How could both the moose and iNaturalist have been more successful?

However, this spectacular success is open to interpretation.

Is this a case of restoration of the natural occurrence of the moose, or an anthropogenic extension of the distribution of the species?

Comments from Readers would be welcome.

Posted on September 21, 2023 01:59 AM by milewski milewski

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@milewski On a slightly unrelated note, there are subfossils of Cervalces latifrons known from Colorado. I wonder if the extinction of Cervalces in North America was due to the arrival of Alces alces in the end-Pleistocene.

Posted by paradoxornithidae 3 months ago

@paradoxornithidae

Perhaps. However, C. latifrons was apparently larger than A. a. shirasi, and about the size of A. a. gigas. So the Holocene usurper was smaller than the Pleistocene species it replaced, suggesting that C. latifrons went extinct for other reasons (predation by Homo sapiens), and A. alces came in partly to fill the vacated niche.

Posted by milewski 3 months ago

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