An orphaned baby moose is making its way to its new home at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is getting ready to welcome its newest resident—an orphaned 8-week-old male Alaska moose. The brown-eyed long-legged calf, who has not yet been named, will arrive at the zoo's Rocky Mountain wild habitat on Wednesday, July 15.
The baby moose was orphaned at about 6 days old just outside of Anchorage, Alaska, when its mother was involved in a fatal human-wildlife conflict. Since then, he has been in the care of the Alaska Zoo.
Moose are not a common animal in zoos but the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is experienced in their care. Just two months ago, the zoo experienced the loss of its beloved 12-year-old Canada moose, Tahoma.
“People have seen an increase in activity in the moose yard, over the past several days, as we prep it for the calf’s arrival,” said Rebecca Zwicker, Rocky Mountain Wild animal care manager. “Our guests have been really curious about the updates we’re making in the moose yard, so we’re excited to share this announcement.
"While we’ve been in the yard, ‘babyproofing,’ we’ve had some wonderful interactions with guests sharing condolences and stories of how Tahoma touched them. It’s clear that Tahoma’s legacy is in place. He touched a lot of hearts, young and old. This little guy has some big hooves to fill, but from what we hear from his keepers at Alaska Zoo, he’s up to the task.”
A couple of CM Zoo staff members went to the Alaska Zoo to meet the little calf and transport him back to Colorado. While the staff is excited to bring in a second moose resident to the zoo, some are experiencing mixed emotions.
“It’s a bittersweet situation because of course, we wish this young calf could have continued living in the wild", said Courtney Rogers, the lead animal keeper in Rocky Mountain Wild. "But, since that was not possible, we’re grateful we’ll be able to care for him here. Since Tahoma passed, Rocky Mountain Wild has definitely been missing some ‘moose magic,’ and we’re so excited to help this little boy grow up."
The zoo staff has been working on getting everything ready for the arrival of the calf by preparing and 'babyproofing' the moose yard.
"Tahoma weighed over 1,000 pounds and this little guy only weighs about 90 pounds, so there are several parts of the exhibit that could have been unsafe for him if we didn’t make changes," said Rogers. "We hear from his Alaska Zookeepers that he gets the ‘zoomies’ a lot, and he’s so small that he will likely be able to squeeze through or under some of the moose exhibit fencing, so we’ve been getting the exhibit ready for this young, inexperienced and excitable calf. We can’t wait to meet him."
Additionally, zookeepers are preparing to slowly guide the calf through his enclosure as he gets accustomed to his new surroundings. The exhibit features a deep pool and a steep culvert, which might take time for the young moose to navigate. In order to keep him safe, the keepers will set up a smaller temporary enclosure within the moose exhibit.
Not only does the calf have to get used to new surroundings, but warmer weather as well. The keepers have considered this adjustment. To keep him cool, they are preparing sand and soil beds that can be kept damp. The calf will also have fans inside his barn where he will sleep as he grows into adulthood.
“We’re super excited, but also kind of feel like new parents,” said Zwicker. “When Tahoma came to us, he was about 10 months old, so this is the first time we’ve had such a young moose. We’re trying to be as prepared as possible. We have spoken with his keepers in Alaska and gotten great advice from other animal professionals who have cared for moose this young. But, we’ve also just accepted that this is going to be kind of a wild ride. He’s going to find some things to get into, and he may catch us off guard from time to time, but we’re also looking forward to watching him being a mischievous youngster. We have to channel our inner mama moose skills, and show him how to live his best life as an ambassador at CMZoo.”
The CMZ is one of the only eight Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited institutions in the United States to house moose. Because it is rare to have moose under human care, the zoo pioneered moose care practices through their work with Tahoma. The managed to formulate nutritious moose diets and training for medical care, like voluntary blood tests and hoof care.
“Tahoma truly was one-of-a-kind,” said Rogers. “Moose keepers visiting from other zoos remarked at how calm and laid-back he was. It’s going to be fun getting to know a new moose personality."
The baby moose has not been named yet. He will move into the Rocky Mountain Wild's moose exhibit when he arrives, where guests will be able to see him right away.\