Gianna Vinci’s fascination with moose began a month ago when her family traveled to Yellowstone National Park and she saw one of the lanky creatures there.
The Evergreen toddler’s interest was reinforced when her mother, Patty, bought a children’s book about Orville the Moose — whose antlers were loose — at a gift shop in the park. The book has been favorite reading at the Vinci home ever since.
But Gianna’s desire to see a moose in Evergreen seemed an unlikely wish until the family drove right by one July 20 on their way to Summerfest.
“My 2-year-old has been saying, ‘Mama, I want to see a moose,’ and I have said, ‘They don’t live here,’ ” Patty recalls. “And then I was like, ‘There’s one!’ ”
The Vinci family (with dad Chris at the wheel) were traveling along Evergreen Parkway when they saw the moose in Elk Meadow about 10:45 a.m. Sunday. They drove past it, then turned around to capture the rare image with their camera.
“There were people pulled (off the road) all over the place,” Patty said. “It was surreal to see this moose in the valley.”
The moose, which appeared young and smaller in size than a typical adult, could very well be the same moose that has mesmerized mountain area folks from Pine to Evergreen the last few weeks as it moseyed along.
A moose of similar stature was reported in Pine in early July, and a man who spotted it in the Woodside subdivision also snapped a picture.
Moose are more typically seen in northern Colorado, where they were introduced in the state 40 years ago. They are the largest member of the deer family and are known for their lanky frame and the abundant antlers of the male.
As the state’s moose population continues to grow, the animals are expanding their territory. In 2007, Colorado’s moose population was 1,270, according to the state Division of Wildlife.
Kathi Green, assistant regional manager for the DOW’s northeast region, said her agency has received calls about the moose in Pine Junction.
“Moose are fairly common in South Park,” Green said. “They move through the Front Range on a pretty regular basis— usually it’s a little more common in fall, but it does happen. There are moose in the South Park, North Park and Middle Park areas.”
Green was new to her job with DOW when the animals were introduced in North Park near Walden in 1978 and 1979. Those animals came from Utah and Wyoming.
“It was big, hot news,” Green said. “The moose population has definitely expanded from when they were originally introduced.”
The animals stand more than 6 feet tall from shoulder to ground and can weight between 800 and 1,600 pounds.
Moose like to move around a lot, Green said. They like creek bottoms and willows. The animals can travel “huge” distances, and they are fairly solitary.
“It’s checking out the country,” Green said.