“Game Damage Prevention Materials”

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Thursday March 4, 2010 I called the Denver office of the Division of Wildlife (the DOW) to request materials for protection from wild animals per article 33-3-103.5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.  First I was asked if I have a 12 gauge shotgun.  I replied “No I do not, nor do I wish to shoot anything, and I believe it would be illegal in my neighborhood.”  The woman seemed distressed by my request.  I was immediately transferred to Liza Hunholz (303/291-7122), which was odd, particularly since these people are difficult to get a hold of.  Ms. Hunholz is the Area Wildlife Manager for DOW Region 5 in which my home in Evergreen is located.

Ms. Hunholz too seemed confused, even put off by my request.  Ms. Hunholz said that I am eligible for “temporary” materials (this is incorrect, I am also eligible for “permanant” ones).  Eventually, after several questions on my part, I was told that temporary materials are only “pyrotechnics” (presumably, blanks) and “elk panels” (i.e., 10 foot by 10 foot panes to drape over hay stacks).  Neither are “sufficient and appropriate” for a suburban home as required by the statute.

I know, because I have spent many years studying this (www.ThinkLikeABeast.com), that there are many helpful solutions.  These include fencing materials, sprays, plastic and metal tree protection devices, scare products, predator urine, and more.  The Colorado DOW should be expert at these.  But…  Seemingly, they do not abide by the law and they do not provide them.  I would expect these solutions to be promoted and proactively offered–I know they exist, I could do them myself, but I shouldn’t have to.  Plus, as a business owner who wants to grow the overall category, I want to see what the DOW has to offer.  Why don’t they do it?  Instead, they seem defensive, contentious, intransigent, and extremely difficult to deal with.

Here is a link to a DOW document that explains, briefly, some DOW programs.  The document is incorrect in stating “damage prevention materials are distributed to qualified landowners for the protection of their crops and livestock.”  The above-referenced statute does not say anything about crops and livestock.

This is the bigger issue.  Providing sufficient and appropriate damage prevention materials for  ALL affected landowners creates accountability.  It is a way to force more appropriate management of the animals, habitat preservation, controlling of numbers, etc. (all also required by law).  I was thrilled to see this expansion to the state laws.  Finally, there is supposed to be accountability.  To the DOW the implication is obvious:  If you don’t want to continuously hand out damage prevention materials you must do a better job of managing the animals.

(Approximately five years ago when I filed a damage reimbursement claim with the DOW I repeatedly requested damage prevention materials which, even then, before the law expansion, they were required to provide.  They refused, or more accurately, failed to respond at all.  The request, and the issue was simply avoided.  Incidentally, my damage claim was refused–I was never told ahead of time that it would be summarily denied due to appropriate and entirely unrelated firearms restrictions in area surrounding my home.)

My experience also suggests that data required by the Colorado General Assembly may be incomplete or misleading–apparently, all requests for protection materials are not logged and handled in a uniform, responsive way.  Friday of last week I called Ms. Hunholz and requested these data and I have not heard back.  Also Friday I called again, this time to the “main customer service number” and requested these data, a 5-year elk management report for my “DAU,” and repeated my request for damage prevention materials I still do not know how to receive the information I asked for.

Anyway, or finally, during our conversation on Thursday Ms. Hunholz said I would be hearing from Mr. Ty Petersburg, the DOW representative/field manager in my area.  Per my caller ID I received a (one) call promptly Friday afternoon and an e-mail from him, both in impressive and responsive fashion.  Mr. Petersburg informed me that he could provice elk panels, which I indicated would not be appropriate for protecting the young ponderosa pines that I have planted in my yard.  I also informed him that I am having a particular problem with, in addition to elk, a group of some thirteen, very hungry mule deer that are virtually living in my yard.  Mr. Petersburg indicated he would have to ask his supervisors about other, potential damage control options; again, in responsive fashion, he e-mailed them Saturday and copied me on the correspondence.  I have not received further word.

Mr. Petersburg is friendly and responsive, but, unfortunately, nothing seems to happen.  My yard, neighborhood, and indeed home town continue to be ravaged by deer and elk.  And I have been extremely disappointed by this process.  I don’t wish to argue and continuously request and complain.   I realize this is an awful lot to expect, but boy, if only if I was told… ‘we’re sorry you are experiencing problems, we will take care of it as soon as possible.’  I am far more knowledgeable than most and I absolutely believe that wild animal damage–I am loathe to use the terms “big game”–can be effectively managed and minimized.

Note:  Here is a link to damage control in Montana. Montana has the second largest elk population after Colorado.  This is about property rights.  It appears as if it is taken more seriously in Montana.

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Here is a key to the law change in Colorado, from the legislative representative who sponsored the house bill:

“The way I understand it right now, it’s nothing more than a preventative materials bill, which allows anybody that calls who has game damage issues to request preventative materials,” Sonnenberg said. “It also sets up a process for dealing with the issue of what’s permanent and what’s temporary.”

This post, in the form of an e-mail was sent to the following Colorado officials, elected representatives, and employees on Monday March 8, 2010.

  1. Tom Remington (Director) and Ty Petersburg, Colorado Division of Wildlife;
  2. Al White and Jerry Sonnenberg, state general assembly senate and house, repectively, sponsors of Senate Bill 24 which expanded the game damage duties of the DOW; and
  3. Cheri Gerou (R, Evergreen) and Dan Gibbs (D, District 16), Colorado General Assembly house and senate, respectively, local/Evergreen representatives.

I’d like to wait a few days and then contact the governor and state attorney general as necessary.  Make no mistake, this is not about the trees in my yard because after years of research, experimentation, and expense I know how to protect them.  This is about all trees and personal property as well as the role and duty of government.  Legally, it is the will of the people and it is written into law.

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