Moose. Photo Credit: MEGiordano_Photography (iStock).

Photo Credit: MEGiordano_Photography (iStock).

Harvesting the wrong big game animal in Colorado could cost you. With the fall hunting seasons upon us, hunters are being reminded to know the difference between a moose and an elk before they pull the trigger.

While it may be hard to believe, mistaken kills happen almost every year.  According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), hunters accidentally and illegally kill moose by mistakenly shooting them for an elk. The video below from Fox31 Denver News dives into some of the details. 

Antler confusion is one of the most common mistakes. Wildlife officials say antlers on moose do not reach full development until the ages of 8 to 13 years old. 

Mistaken kills” are classified into three categories including accidental harvest, careless, and negligent. Depending on the mix-up, hunters could face fines up to $1,000 and the potential loss of hunting privileges.

There are many ways to tell a moose apart from an elk.

When it comes to behavior, Moose are fairly solitary. They're often found wandering alone in the wilderness with the exception of when they're accompanied by their young. Elk, on the other hand, often migrate in large herds. 

The two species are also quite different in size. Moose are the largest members of the deer family, weighing as much as 1,200 pounds. That's nearly twice as much as the average bull elk , which weighs between 660 and 780 pounds.

Moose are also much darker in color, with brown coats that can often appear black. Elk range in color from tan to light brown with darker heads, necks, and legs. Bull elk have a distinctive pale yellow rump. 

It's also important to note that moose behave much differently toward humans. Moose are typically less likely to steer away from a hunter than an elk, sometimes making them easier kill, but also potentially making them more of a threat should they become aggressive.

With so many different animals found in Colorado, it's important for hunters to know how to tell various species apart for the safety of animal populations and to avoid unintentionally breaking the law.

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.


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(2) comments


I agree with the previous post. This is not a mistake it is ignorance. Anybody that can't tell the difference between an elk and a moose, whether a bull or a cow, is not fit to be in the woods with a loaded firearm or bow.

Further, I would be very interested to see the statistics on how many of these mistaken harvests are committed by out-of-state hunters. If it continues to be such a problem there should be stricter penalties like revocation of hunting privileges for a certain number of years even if accidental. If negligent or reckless they should be revoked for lifetime.

Jackie Treehorn

Mistake? It would be a mistake to let them be allowed to hunt if they cant tell the difference.

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