SALT LAKE CITY — Masses of moose are making their way down from the mountains, giving Utah biologists a busy start to 2022.
"It’s just been a lot in a very short amount of time. It has been kind of keeping them pretty busy," said Faith Heaton Jolley, a public information officer with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
Between January 8-15, wildlife officers responded to 12 separate reports of loose moose — involving 13 animals — with many of them being near I-80 in Summit County.
In fact, another was reported to the DWR Monday morning, but wildlife officers were unable to track it down.
"Typically, just because there’s so much snow in the mountains, that isn’t their normal summer feeding habitat, so they’re trying to migrate down looking for food," Jolley said.
As more moose make their way down from the mountains, the concern is that they'll make it into neighborhoods and eventually the roads.
Some of the other moose mentioned beforehand were tranquilized and relocated, but two were hit and killed by vehicles.
The DWR thinks the moose have been getting through holes in fences and over cattle guards that have been packed with snow and ice.
Now, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) says they're playing catch up.
"Sometimes we might put in fencing and we’ve fenced off an area, but every fence has an end to it, so those can become new hot spots," said Matt Howard, the natural resources manager for UDOT.
There's a lot more to it than just fixing holes in fences, though.
"The biggest problem with solving what we’re dealing with would be just the sheer amount of miles of fencing that we have," Howard said.
As moose and other animal sightings come in, UDOT and the DWR track them to pinpoint where they're coming through.
In the future, UDOT wants to use drones and satellite imagery to try and spot problems sooner before crews can find them in-person on the ground.
"We want to come up with some innovative ways to identify problem areas before they get this urgent," said Howard.
If you happen to spot a moose or any other wildlife in your neighborhood or in the roads, the DWR has some advice for you.
"If it seems like there’s any kind of public safety concerns, traffic concerns, or if the animal itself looks sick or injured, then that’s something that we definitely want people to report," Jolley said.
You can report wildlife sightings to the DWR here.