By DAVE BUCHANAN The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
Antler grabbers, skunk trappers and the arrival of a surprise but not unexpected guest are going to command much of the attention of the Colorado Wildlife Commission at its meeting Thursday in Denver.
Concerned about people harassing wildlife in order to swipe an antler or two, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has asked the commission to consider some sort of regulations to control unwanted human-wildlife contact.
Fallen antlers, also called sheds, can bring up to $18 a pound and matching-set sheds potentially can be worth thousand.
Either way, it’s enough to make some folks too eager to see a deer or elk drop its antlers before its time.
In one case of blatant harassment, DOW officers fined an Alaska man Feb. 4 for chasing deer near Gunnison.
The commission will be asked to consider several options, including closing some state wildlife areas with critical winter range to winter trespassing, setting a season for antler collecting after the animals have dropped their antlers naturally or even making it illegal to possess and/or trade shed antlers.
Trappers want to recover some of the ground they lost a decade ago when the state’s voters severely limited commercial trapping.
In a petition earlier this year to the commission, the Colorado Trappers’ Association requested that members be allowed to “live” trap wildlife currently off limits: swift foxes, gray foxes, long- and short-tailed weasels, pine martens, minks, ringtails, western-spotted skunks, and opossums.
The trappers say it’s for research; opponents say it’s a smoke screen to let the trappers kill the trapped animals and, presumably, sell the fur. In 1996, the state’s voters adopted a constitutional amendment that prohibits trapping using lethal methods except certain specific exemptions, such as protecting human safety or for scientific research projects.
This is the second attempt by the trappers. In 2001, the wildlife commission rejected a similar request to trap these species.
And as sure as it was black and had four legs, there’s bound to be discussion about a video showing what everyone but the DOW seems certain was a wolf romping across North Park near Walden.
“It’s a wolf, not a dog and not a wolf-dog hybrid,” asserted Rob Edward of Sinapu, a Boulder-based wolf advocacy group, after watching the video taken by a DOW officer.
“The black coat is the kicker. It’s characteristic of the Yellowstone wolves,” he said.
Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1994 and now number about 300.
That’s about 500 miles northwest of Walden and a long trip for a solitary animal, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont.
“Of the 200 tagged wolves that have dispersed from the park, only seven have gone over 180 miles,” Bangs said. “If this is a wild wolf, and it looks like one to me, it’s number eight.”
The commission will be meeting from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Division of Wildlife’s Hunter Education Building, 6060 Broadway.
Dave Buchanan can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.