It was a rough day to be a moose.
Several were stalked by helicopter, captured with a net, blindfolded and then airlifted to trailers for a six-hour drive.
The moose woke up in Utah on Friday but were going to sleep in Colorado.
The strategy helps Utah cure a moose overpopulation while raising the number in Colorado. In return, Utah will get big horn sheep.
“I equate this to alien abduction. It’s got to be that traumatic,” said Dean Riggs, area wildlife manager with the Colorado Wildlife Division.
Wildlife officers hope to catch 25 moose through Saturday in northern Utah and transplant them to western Colorado.
Though Utah’s overall moose population of 4,100 is on target, there are about 400 too many about 40 miles northeast of Salt Lake City, said Justin Dolling, a wildlife manager with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Too many moose can mean a loss of habitat, which leads to weakened animals or ones wandering in populated areas trying to find food.
On Friday, wranglers in a helicopter shot nets over the moose. A person called a “mugger” tied the animals’ legs and put a blind over their eyes and cotton in their ears.
“I’ve never mugged a moose, but I guess they’re pretty wimpy once they’re on the ground,” Dolling said.
The moose were then released from the net and wrapped in a large canvas sack to be airlifted to a staging area where veterinarians examined them and gave them antibiotics.
The moose got radio collars and a quick exam to check for disease before crews of eight to 10 people put them into horse trailers.
As the trailers headed to Grand Mesa National Forest, east of Grand Junction, Colo., Riggs said his agency was baiting sheep to give to Utah.
About 20 sheep are expected to be released in the Rock Canyon and Mount Timpanogos areas in Utah County.
Such interstate swaps are common in the region.
“If it’s not moose or sheep, it’s fish and fish eggs,” Riggs said. “If all goes well, in a couple of months, we’ll be shipping sheep back.”