Monthly Archives: September 2006

DOW Investigates Grizzly Bear Report

Now, one from the “I sure hope they’re right” file: The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is investigating a report of a grizzly bear sighting which took place on Sept. 20 in the San Isabel National Forest near Independence Pass. According to the DOW, the two hunters (one of whom has extensive experience with grizzlies) reported watching a female grizzly bear and two cubs at a distance of about 80 yards for approximately a minute through binoculars and a spotting scope. The bears were observed in a clearing. The hunters were unable to find tracks or scat.

Grizzly bearAlthough grizz haven’t been confirmed in Colorado in a couple of decades, there’s certainly still room for them here, and there’s more than a handful of folks who believe a few still roam the remote backcountry of southern Colorado. If this report is the real-deal, we hope that the DOW will do everything possible to ensure the safety of these bears, to include closing the area to hunters (especially bear hunters) for the season. Grizzly bears are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and it is a federal crime to kill one knowingly.
Click here to go to the DOW press release. We’ll keep this story updated as we learn more.

Rural subdivision apparently solves its bear problem

CRYSTAL LAKES – Last year, this rural foothills subdivision 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins was bear central, with 100 homes and trailers ravaged for food by mid-September.

By the end of 2005, the total was 131 such incidents.

Residents keep count of bear break-ins on a painted plywood bear at the Crystal Lakes entrance. For this year it reads, “13.”

The turnaround is a rare success in Colorado’s chronic problems with bears that abandoned foods of the forest for Dumpsters, garbage cans and picnic tables in resort towns and mountain communities

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Who's dumpster diving?  Photo:  Colorado Division of Wildlife

“People here are learning you can’t feed the bears,” said Jim Tiffin, a year-round Crystal Lakes resident. “We had a people problem more than we had a bear problem.”

For decades, feeding bears was a way of life at Crystal Lakes where empty lots outnumber homes, trailers and cabins on 4,800 acres surrounded by federal forest.

Along the winding roads, there’s an endless display of bear-shaped signs, mighty bears sculpted from logs and porch kitsch with sweet-eyed bruins eager for a snack.

The wildlife-loving residents installed scores of bird feeders where generations of bears dined on seeds, fat and dried berries left in bird feeders.

Inspired by bear sightings, some folks left dinner scraps on decks, picnic tables and barbecue grills, said Tiffin, who built a home at Crystal Lakes in 1992 and moved in full-time two years ago.

One woman, fondly known as the Pancake Lady, cooked up batches of the warm treats to entice bears, he said.

One man put out a rubber tire filled with cooking grease and spoiled meat to lure bears close to his house so he could take pictures, said Curtis Livingston.

“Another guy used to put his garbage outside his house to attract bears,” said Livingston, who has lived at Crystal Lakes since 1995.

The result was bear break-ins – broken windows, torn screens, chewed doors, smashed plywood, pillaged kitchens and massive repair bills.

Continue reading

Environment comes to fore in Colorado governor's race

Conservation groups named Republican Bob Beauprez to their “Dirty Dozen” list Wednesday, the latest development in a Colorado governor’s race in which the environment is playing a prominent role. Even some Republican-leaning outdoor enthusiasts are proving none too enthusiastic about Beauprez, the Republican candidate, who recently proposed spending millions of dollars to try to train elk and deer to use “different habitat” so that oil and gas companies can have their way with Colorado’s wild landscapes.

Click here to read the Associated Press story.

High-tech politics: Repubs pick out snowmobilers who prefer bourbon

Students of political machinations, you’ve got to tip the hat to the modern Republican Party. Ever since the ascendance of their President Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Repubs have gotten better and better at rallying their base of anti-tax, anti-government, assertively rightwing Christian folks.

They’ve honed their tactics and built huge computer databases, to do “micro-targeting” of small blocs of voters that can swing tight elections — including “stock-car racing fans and snowmobilers,” the Los Angeles Times reported back in 2004.

Click here to read the post in the Goat.

Black-Footed Ferrets Fight Extinction

Twenty-five years ago today, a dog in Wyoming arrived at its owner’s doorstep with a dead black-footed ferret in its mouth. Until then, biologists had thought the species was extinct.

Within a few years, biologists found 17 more ferrets and started a captive-breeding program. There are now hundreds of these ferrets in the wild today, but they are still considered one of the most endangered mammals in North America.
Click here to go to the full story in NPR’s Morning Edition.

Idaho Wolves Get a Reprieve!

Great news! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finally rejected a harebrained plan by the Idaho Fish & Game Department to kill up to 75% of the wolves in the Clearwater region in order to boost elk numbers. The original proposal was based on pseudo-science that even the Bush Administration couldn’t accept (remember those “WMD’s”?).

The whole story can be accessed by clicking here.

Lynx sightings on the rise in Summit County

Lynx chasing a mouseWhile federal agencies and environmental groups continue to battle over legal and regulatory conservation measures, Colorado’s lynx reintroduction program reached an important milestone this spring. Biologists with the state’s division of wildlife for the first time documented native recruitment to the lynx population transplanted from Canada and Alaska in recent years.

Simply put, that means that the lynx brought into the state are reproducing, and that the kittens born to the transplanted cats have also successfully produced offspring. According to the best available estimates, about 200 of the wild cats are now roaming the state, and the White River National Forest remains an important area for them.

And while lynx are renowned for being shy and reclusive, they have been spotted and tracked in Summit County, most recently this spring, when several locals were fortunate enough to enjoy close encounters with the big-pawed, tuft-eared cats.

“It was the morning of Mothers’ Day, right after I saw the Loch Ness monster,” joked Gary Severson, talking about his encounter with a lynx, right in the driveway of his home near Breckenridge, on the south side of French Gulch. Severson, director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, lives on a 17-acre parcel of land with mixed forest, including some lodgepole, as well as spruce, fir and aspen.

“First I thought it was a bobcat. It was just taking a leisurely walk, right down the middle of Highpoint Drive,” Severson said, explaining that he spotted the cat as he was enjoying a morning cup of coffee. At the same time, a red fox showed up and gave the lynx a wide berth, Severson said.

Severson said he reported the sighting to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The agency monitors lynx sightings throughout the state, hoping to identify important movement corridors and gain insight into how the cats use the habitat that’s available. Altogether, state biologists have recorded hundreds of lynx locations on the White River National Forest.

While most of the cats have set up territories in the San Juans, surrounding the release area in the headwaters of the Rio Grande near Creede, several distinct sub-populations are developing farther north, in between Aspen, Leadville and Copper Mountain.

About the same time Severson saw a lynx in his driveway, a pair of lift maintenance workers at Keystone also spotted one of the cats at the base of North Peak.

“This cat had a collar on,” said Keystone operations director Chuck Tolton. “They had a chance to observe it for a few minutes. We’re pretty excited about this. It’s the third sighting at Keystone,” he said, adding that the furtive cats have also left a few sets of prints around the ski area. “We are very much committed to reporting the sightings,” he said.

In fact, the resort has a wildlife poster and a chart to list wildlife sighting posted in an operations center at the base area.

“It was about 11 a.m. We were working on a drive at the Ruby Lift. There hadn’t really been any activity since the mountain closed down,” said Eric Benson, the lift maintenance worker who first spotted the cat. “I was coming down on a snowmobile and saw something moving across the front of Le Bonte’s Cabin. I thought it might be a lynx. It was kind of cautious at the road crossing and then I realized it had a collar. It just kind of wandered off into the woods,” Benson said, estimating that he observed the cat for about two minutes. “I was totally amazed. So few people see them in the wild.”

Benson’s co-worker, Josh Stone, spotted what was presumably the same lynx just about the same time.

“I was working at the bottom of the Outback and cruising along Keystone Gulch Road headed toward the Santiago chair. At first, I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe it was a German Shepherd,” Stone said. “It was walking parallel to the road and it didn’t really seem to care that I was there,” he said.

Rick Thompson, a wildlife biologist who works with Keystone on lynx conservation issues, has also tracked the cats at the ski area. In one case, Thompson said he followed tracks within 100 yards of the Keystone gondola to the area around the Windows and the Prospector ski trail.

Another lynx was spotted several years ago in the vicinity of Montezuma by Steve Hornback, now the mayor of Summit County’s smallest town. Other cats have been located in the vicinity of Vail Pass. The forested area between the pass and Copper Mountain is also considered to be a potentially important north-south movement corridor for lynx.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife reported that the number of lynx births dropped this spring as compared to previous years. In a press release posted on the agency’s website, biologists said they think that constantly adding new lynx to the population mix may actually be having a detrimental effect on breeding. As a result, the agency will suspend releases of new lynx for now, waiting to see how the existing population fares in the coming years.

By Bob Berwyn

Summit Daily

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