RENO, Nev. (AP) — More and more moose from Idaho and Utah are making their way into Nevada, where they’re finding wilderness to their liking without the kind of help from humans most species get when they relocate.
Irregular and sporadic moose sightings in Nevada date back to the 1950s, but about a decade ago, observations began to climb in the northeast corner of the state.
By 2018, the Nevada Department of Wildlife estimated there were somewhere between 30 and 50 moose in the state. Now, their numbers total well above 100, according to department biologist Kari Huebner.
State wildlife officials say it’s the first time a big game species has made a comeback in Nevada without a concentrated relocation effort.
“We did absolutely nothing. It’s like the moose have chosen us,” Huebner told the Reno Gazette Journal. “It’s something they’ve done completely on their own.”
In the past three years, the department has collared seven cows and three bulls to better understand the largest member of the deer family. Two of them winter in Nevada and summer in Idaho, while the others are full-time residents of Nevada.
Since 2020, the collared female cows have given birth to four sets of twins, including one set this year.
Standing almost 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall, moose are one of the largest land mammals in North America and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms). They are hooved herbivores — primarily eating leaves, bark and twigs from trees and shrubs.
They’re likely migrating over from southern Idaho and western Utah, where populations are swelling. Idaho’s moose population is pushing 12,000, and Utah has about 3,000.
As the solitary animals look to expand their territory, they’ve discovered Nevada’s Elko and Humboldt counties have pockets of ideal moose habitat — wet riparian areas, plentiful aspen and mahogany stands, serviceberry bushes to munch on — and no predatory wolves or black bears.
Moose have been spotted as far south as the Ruby Mountains in Nevada southeast of Elko.
“There’s a lot more moose habitat in Nevada than people realize,” Huebner said.