“Noxious weeds threaten our quality of life; they impact agriculture, water quality, recreational opportunities, and wildlife,” said Colorado State Weed Coordinator, Steve Ryder. “We are working hard to eradicate, control, and minimize weed infestations across Colorado.”
Noxious weeds infest more than one million acres in Colorado and cost Colorado landowners an estimated $100 million annually in lost productivity of range and cropland. Federal agencies estimate that noxious weeds are spreading on federal public lands at a rate of 4,600 acres per day.
To protect Colorado’s lands, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has implemented an aggressive program to manage weeds, with an emphasis on early detection and eradication. The department has helped communities form partnerships and coordinate weed management activities. The State Weed Coordinator has distributed $350,000 to $400,000 annually in grants to assist counties, municipalities and others in their weed management efforts.
“You can help by working to identify and manage the noxious weeds in your community,” said Ryder.
Noxious Weed Awareness Week will be filled with local activities such as weed identification and management workshops, community weed pulling events, high tech mapping equipment demonstrations, weed infestation tours and educational displays. For activities planned in your area, please contact your county weed manager.
More information, including a county weed supervisor list and photos and lists of noxious weeds, can be found here.
DOW BIOLOGISTS START BEAR STUDY IN DURANGO
DURANGO –The Colorado Division of Wildlife is starting a five-year research project in the Durango area to learn more about the local black bear population. This is the first study of its kind in southwest Colorado and will be one of the most comprehensive studies to date on bear-human conflicts. The goals of the study are to develop a better understanding of how bear populations use urban areas, determine how to reduce bear-human conflicts and to improve techniques for estimating bear numbers and population trends. The initial phase of the project is underway. Durango was selected for the study because it is surrounded by high-quality bear habitat that is directly adjacent to urban development. “Bear-human conflicts appear to be increasing in Colorado, but we don't know if that reflects an increasing bear population or just a shift in bear behavior as they forage on human food sources available in towns,” said Lead Researcher Heather Johnson. “We hope to learn more about this as we examine the habitat-use patterns and population dynamics of bears in Durango and the surrounding wildland habitat.” While the study will take place in and around Durango, the results should be relevant to other areas in Colorado that experience high bear-human conflict rates, Johnson said. Two primary techniques will be used to collect information on the local bear population. During the first two years of the study, researchers hope to fit 50 female bears with Global Positioning System telemetry collars in order to track their movements. Meanwhile, hair snare stations will collect genetic material from bears, which will allow researchers to estimate population size. Anyone who comes upon a trap or hair snare should leave the area immediately. Traps are monitored closely by research staff.
Patt Dorsey, area wildlife manager in Durango, said the study is an important effort to learn more about bears and to reduce conflicts.
“The Division works really hard at managing black bears in and around Durango,” Dorsey said. “We are looking forward to having more and better information to help us do our job. Bears are incredible animals that live here because of the good habitat.”
The Durango study follows up on an urban bear study that recently concluded in the Aspen and Glenwood Springs area. That study offered new insights on urban bear movement and interaction, which set the stage for the current research. Researchers decided not to conduct the current study in the Aspen area because local trash ordinances and bear management actions would make it difficult to address the study objectives. The Durango area provides the necessary flexibility to build on the findings of the earlier study. Durango residents are encouraged to continue reporting bear encounters during the study period. Quick and accurate reporting leads to more successful conflict resolution. To report a conflict, such as bears knocking over trash or damaging property, please call the Division of Wildlife office in Durango at 970/247-0855. The San Juan National Forest is supportive of the research and is helping to coordinate logistics. Visitors to National Forest lands near Durango may see Division of Wildlife employees operating clearly marked ATVs or pickup trucks on routes that are closed to public motorized use. This use is approved by the Forest Service. If forest visitors see other motor vehicles being operated illegally on closed routes in the San Juan National Forest, they should call the Durango Public Lands Center at 970/247-4874, Columbine Public Lands Center 970/884-2512, or the Pagosa Public Lands Center 970/264-2268. Other organizations collaborating on the study include Colorado State University, the National Wildlife Research Center, Bear Trust International and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Twin Buttes of Durango, a local development company, has contributed money to purchase two telemetry collars. To learn more about how to avoid conflicts with bears, visit the Division's web page at: wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/Mammals/LivingWithBearsL1.htm.
CAUTION URGED AROUND LIVESTOCK PROTECTION DOGS
DELTA – As the snow melts, hikers, backpackers and other public land users will soon be joining bands of domestic sheep in heading for the high country. Domestic sheep graze on public lands under a permit to their owners between late June and early October. A band of sheep is often accompanied by a pair of livestock protection dogs, which are an effective tool used by ranchers to protect sheep from predators. These large white guard dogs are often Great Pyrenees or Akbash breeds.
The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management both administer grazing allotments where stock dogs are used. Follow these safety tips when encountering livestock protection dogs in the backcountry:
When approaching a band of sheep, allow time for the guard dogs to see you and determine you are not a threat. Remain calm. If you do not appear to be a threat, the dogs will often just watch you pass by.
If you have a dog with you, it may appear to guard dogs as a threat if it gets too close to the band or tries to chase sheep. Keep your dog close to you and under control. Leash your dog for as long as you can see the sheep band.
Try not to “split” the band by walking through it; instead travel around the sheep via the least disruptive route. Keep as much space as practical between you and the sheep band, especially if you have a dog with you. As you pass, keep line of sight between you, your pets and the guard dogs.
Bicycle riders should dismount from their bikes and walk past the band with the bike between you and the livestock protection dog. Do not remount until you are well past the sheep.
Chase or harass sheep or livestock protection dogs.
Try to outrun livestock protection dogs. If a guard dog approaches you, tell it to “go back to the sheep,” or tell it, “No!” in a firm voice. Do not attempt to hit or throw things at it.
Attempt to befriend or feed livestock protection dogs. They are not pets. They are lean athletic working dogs, which are cared for by their owners.
Allow your pets to run towards or harass sheep. They may be perceived as predators by the livestock protection dog and attacked.
Mistake a livestock protection dog as lost and take it with you.
For more information or to report an encounter with a livestock protection dog, please contact your nearest Forest Service (or BLM if on BLM administered land) office.
FOREST SERVICE ACCEPTING PROPOSALS FOR TITLE II PROJECT FUNDING
DURANGO – Proposals are again being accepted for natural-resource projects that benefit lands and resources of the San Juan National Forest and the rural economies of Archuleta, Dolores and La Plata counties. Funding is available through the reauthorized Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which funds Title II projects on federal lands or that benefit federal lands. The legislation encourages individuals, nonprofit organizations, local governments and others to propose projects that restore watersheds, decommission or maintain roads and trails, remove noxious weeds, thin tree stands, or otherwise improve the condition of the National Forest.
Funding projected to be available includes $44,194 for Archuleta County, $30,057 for Dolores County and $42,366 for La Plata County. Potential applicants should coordinate Title II proposals with their local San Juan National Forest office before submittal.
After meeting with the Forest Service, proponents should also obtain a letter of support from their county commissioners.
To be considered, proposals must be received by close of business on Friday, July 29, 2011, and may be mailed or hand-delivered to Bill Dunkelberger, San Juan Public Lands Deputy Forest Supervisor, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO 81301. Proposals that meet the intent of the legislation will be reviewed by the San Juan National Forest Secure Rural Schools Advisory Committee in August. The RAC will provide recommendations to the Forest Service on which projects should be funded. The RAC is made up of 15 citizen members and three replacement members representing a wide range of interests.
The Title II Project application form is available by going online to the San Juan National Forest home page.
For more information, contact Bill Dunkelberger at 970/385-1351.
KENTUCKY MEN FINED FOR ILLEGAL HUNTING
PAONIA – A sharp-eyed former wildlife officer provided key evidence to the Colorado Division of Wildlife that led to three Kentucky men admitting guilt for illegal hunting activities in Colorado.
As a result, the men paid more than $5,000 in fines to the state of Colorado. Two of the men face a possible five-year suspension of their hunting privileges in Colorado and 32 other states that are part of a national wildlife compact.
“This case shows that help from sportsmen and the public are often critical to catching people who violate Colorado's wildlife laws,” said Kirk Madariaga, district wildlife officer in the Paonia area.
The case dates back to September 2009 when four men from Kentucky were hunting with muzzleloaders for deer and elk north of Paonia in western Colorado. The informant, a retired wildlife conservation officer from Missouri, was also hunting in the same area and had met the men while in the field.
On Sept. 18 of that year, the informant said he was sitting near a pond in Game Management Unit 521 when he saw one of the men, Talmage C. Ward, shoot a bull elk. The informant said he walked to the downed bull and met Ward there. He reported that Ward was acting nervous and said he couldn't find his licenses. The former wildlife officer said Ward's behavior seemed suspicious.
According to the former officer, Ward called his hunting partners on a radio and they arrived a short time later to help clean and quarter the elk. Ward's friends also brought an elk license with them and the informant saw them hand it to Ward. The license, however, had been purchased by one of the other men, the subsequent investigation showed.
After taking pictures of the men with the animal, the former officer left the scene. On Sept. 23, he contacted Madariaga, explained the situation and also reported that another man from the Kentucky group had harvested a deer and had taken it earlier in the week to be processed at a locker in Paonia. He also provided Madariaga with the photos.
Working from the tip, Madariaga went to the meat processor and obtained information about the man who had brought in the deer. The deer had been taken legally. Madariaga talked to the man who had shot the deer who said that Ward had shot an elk. After that, however, the man didn't say anything else. Madariaga then investigated further and through hunting records obtained the names of the other men in the party.
Early in 2010, Madariaga contacted Kentucky wildlife officials and asked for assistance. Kentucky officials eventually turned the investigation over to law enforcement officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In February 2011, a federal officer served a search warrant on the home of Ward and found elk antlers.
The officer then interviewed Ward, and two other members of the hunting party – James M. Spaulding Jr. and Bennie L. Moore. Ward admitted that he'd killed the elk and that he'd used Moore's license to tag the animal. Using another person's hunting license, often called party hunting, is illegal in Colorado.
The men were then contacted by an investigator from the Division of Wildlife who advised them of the charges. The men accepted the charges and paid the fines.
Ward was issued a citation for unlawful take of a bull elk, unlawful hunting without a license, unlawfully receiving another person's license and unlawful transport of wildlife. He was fined a total of $3,207.50, and assessed 50 points against his hunting and fishing privileges. License privileges can be suspended for anyone who accumulates 20 points or more in a five-year period.
Spaulding was issued a citation for complicity in the illegal transfer of another person's license. He was fined $276.50 and assessed 15 license penalty points.
A citation was issued to Moore for unlawfully transferring a license to another person, unlawful possession of a bull elk, complicity in hunting illegally, and he also received a warning for unlawful transport of wildlife. He was fined $1,646.50 and assessed 30 penalty points.
“The tip was instrumental in making this case,” said Madariaga. “It's very important that people report suspicious activity or violations. Sportsmen and women need to remember that not reporting violations means lost hunting opportunities for themselves, others and future hunters.”
If you suspect that a wildlife crime has been committed, call Operation Game Thief at 877/265-6648. Callers to Operation Game Thief may remain anonymous and may receive a reward if their information leads to an arrest or issuance of a citation.
For more information on hunting rules and regulation in Colorado, please see: wildlife.state.co.us/RulesRegs/RegulationsBrochures/BigGame.htm.