RENO (AP) — Moose used to be rare in Nevada, but wildlife officials are pointing to an increase of sightings of the big animals in the northeastern part of the state as they ask lawmakers to make it a felony to kill moose without a hunting tag.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reports the Legislature last week began considering a bill to add moose to a list of game animals including bighorn sheep, mountain goat, elk, deer, pronghorn, mountain lions and bears.
It's currently a misdemeanor to kill a moose, Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Zach Campbell said Tuesday.
Wildlife chief Tony Wasley told an Assembly committee last Thursday that a biologist making a recent elk survey reported seeing as many as 60 moose, and that increased sightings of moose cows and calves in recent years suggest the animals are making Nevada home instead of just passing through.
"It is exciting to see a species like that find Nevada and make it its home," Wasley said.
Most moose sightings in Nevada dating back to the 1950s were of young males, he added.
Republican Assemblyman John Ellison said a moose sighting in his Elko district drew a crowd of onlookers trying to take photos.
But state Game Warden Tyler Turnipseed reported that moose killings also have risen.
He recounted three cases, including two in which hunters self-reported killing cow moose they mistook for cow elk.
In another case, authorities in Elko County found a moose carcass with the head and parts of its body with the choicest cuts of meat removed. Turnipseed said he suspected that killing was deliberate.
Under the bill, such a killing could be a felony or gross misdemeanor, similar to taking elk or deer without hunting licenses and tags.
No one testified against the bill, which is still in early stages of consideration.
"No one is anti-moose," said Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining.