Moose in Rocky Mountain National Park

The largest creature to inhabit Rocky Mountain National Park is the moose. With its gangly legs, elongated face, dark brown fur, and love of water, it stands apart from the other inhabitants.

One of the newest creatures to inhabit Rocky Mountain National Park is the moose. They are not a native species to the area. While the occasional moose may have come and gone over the centuries, there is little evidence that there was ever a sizeable population of them in the vicinity of the park. In 1978 and 1979 the Colorado Department of Wildlife introduced two herds—one from the Uinta Mountains of northeast Utah and the other from the Grand Tetons—to North Park, an area about twenty miles northwest of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bull Winter

Very quickly these moose spread out and thrived in their new area. In 1980 the first moose was seen in the Kawuneeche Valley, and in the following year two cows were seen at Boulder-Grand Pass, an access point to the east side of the park. Over the years the moose have become at home in Rocky. While it is most common to see them in the Kawuneeche Valley, they can be spotted all over the park, particularly in marshy meadows and near shallow lakes.

Moose are very solitary creatures, preferring to either be alone or with just one or two others. They tend to travel great distances, often returning each year to their favorite grazing area. Their diet consists primarily of willows, aspens, and marsh grasses, eating up to 70 pounds (32 kg) per animal each day. Their introduction appears to have changed the environmental balance in some areas of the park. It is thought that their overgrazing of willows which are a vital component of the ecosystem for areas like the Kawuneeche Valley, is causing a change in some landscapes and has further reduced the struggling population of beaver.

Wildlife Watching Tips:

Some of the best places to find moose is along the Kawuneeche Valley, in East Meadow, along the first stretch of the North Inlet Trail, along the Colorado River Trail, the Green Mountain Trail, the Onahu Trail, on the trail to Cub Lake, in Sprague Lake, Bierstadt Lake, Sheep Lakes, or anywhere that might be wet or marshy. Because they are nearly black, they can easily look like shadows and be missed, so you’ll need to have a good eye to spot them. Mornings are generally the best time to find them. If you do see a moose, give it a wide berth and watch from a distance. Two bus lengths in the recommended distance to keep from a moose. If agitated they can charge quite quickly, so stay alert.