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Colorado: Lynx study expanded to Loveland Pass

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Drop-off box for GPS units at Loveland Pass.

Research to help conservation and recreation planning efforts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A multi-year Forest Service study aimed at better understanding how lynx react to human recreational activities was expanded to new areas in Colorado this year, including Loveland Pass, Leadville and Telluride.

Previous efforts have focused on the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, where  scientists captured lynx and fitted them with collars to transmit GPS data. At the same time, the Forest Service researchers asked skiers and snowmobilers to take GPS transmitters along on their excursions.

A thorough analysis of the data will help land managers make science-based decisions about how to allocate resources as they balance the demand for recreation with a mandate to protect habitat for rare animals like lynx, protected under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

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Colorado: Meeker outfitter gets jail time for baiting game

Outfitter Dennis Eugene Rodebaugh sentenced to 41 months in prison for numerous wildlife violations

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A Colorado hunting will lose his business, go to jail and pay big fines for baiting deer and elk. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a classic tale of poacher versus game warden, a Meeker man apparently carried on a hunting business using illegal baiting to lure wildlife for his out-of-state clients, perhaps for as long as 20 years.

After other local residents tipped them off, state and federal agents launched an eight-year investigation that culminated last week, when U.S. District Court Judge Christine Arguello sentencing Dennis Eugene Rodebaugh, 72, owner of D & S Outfitters of Meeker, to 41 months in federal prison. He must also pay $37,390 in restitution to the state and forfeit two all-terrain vehicles and a trailer used in the commission of his crimes.

In September 2012, a federal jury in Denver found Rodebaugh guilty of six felony violations of the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits the transportation of illegally taken wildlife across state lines.

Baiting wildlife is illegal in Colorado and most of Rodebaugh’s clients were out-of-state hunters. As part of his sentence, Rodebaugh must also pay a $7500 fine that will go to the Lacey Act Reward Fund.

“This individual showed grievous disregard for wildlife laws, a considerable lack of ethics and he never expressed remorse,” said lead investigator Bailey Franklin, district wildlife manager in Meeker. “It took tremendous resources and man-hours to bring him to justice and we are very satisfied with the sentence.” Continue reading

Colorado: New wildlife roundtable forming

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Colorado mule deer browsing. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

State resource managers seek input from hunters and anglers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —With deer herds in northwestern Colorado declining and the state’s trout likely facing another long, dry summer, wildlife managers may be looking at some tough choices in the months ahead.

To get some input from active hunters and anglers in the region, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is putting together regional caucuses to meet and discuss wildlife issues with managers, biologists and agency officials, with an upcoming meeting set for Feb. 20 in Grand Junction (6 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel, 755 Horizon Drive).

In addition to the wildlife-related discussion, attendees will select two delegates to represent the region’s wildlife concerns at the newly formed Sportsmen’s Roundtable to be held in Denver next month. The roundtable will provide hunters and anglers from the four regions of the state with direct access to agency officials, including wildlife commissioners. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds propose endangered species listing, critical habitat designation for rare Gunnison sage-grouse

Colorado wildlife officials disappointed by listing proposal

Colorado Gunnison Sage-grouse critical habitat map

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado and Utah.

Gunnison sage-grouse

A male Gunnison sage-grouse struts as part of its spring mating ritual. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite ongoing voluntary conservation measures, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that the best available science indicates that the Gunnison sage-grouse is in danger of extinction and needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.

By some estimates, there are only about 4,000 to 5,000 of the iconic western birds remaining, scattered in eight small population pockets in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. As a result, the USFWS has proposed listing the species as endangered and also proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat.

The proposal triggers a 60-day public comment period, with input due by March 12. The agency will also hold a series of public meetings to take input from residents and landowners in areas that could be affected by the listing. The meetings will likely be held in Gunnison, Montrose, Delta and Cortez, Colorado, or in Monticello, Utah and will be advertised at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Continue reading

Colorado game managers seek ‘malicious moose poacher’

Grand County killing described as an ‘egregious act’

A moose cow and two calves browse near the base of Berthoud Pass in this Aug. 2010 file photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say they are launching an all-out investigation to apprehend the person or persons responsible for killing a cow moose and her two calves in Grand County.

“This is an outrageous incident,” said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “My officers are preparing an all-out effort to find the person or persons responsible and bring them to justice. At this point, we have no reason to believe this was an accident,” Velarde said. “The case is being investigated as a malicious poaching incident.” Continue reading

Colorado: Conservation easement on 15,000-acre Moffat County ranch to protect critical big game winter range

Pronghorn antelope foraging in sagebrush habitat near Gunnison Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

GOCO, feds and state pitch in on major conservation deal

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new conservation easement on the 15,000-acre Tuttle Ranch in Moffat County will help protect important wildlife habitat and winter range while allowing ranching operations to continue.

The ranch encompasses sagebrush steppe, foothills grassland and pinyon-juniper woodlands, with habitat for greater sage-grouse and critical winter range for elk, mule deer and pronghorn.

The conservation easement was purchased from the RSH Land Company LLC, with a combination of funds from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado. Continue reading

Colorado biologists planning statewide lynx assessment

Habitat occupancy assessment to help monitor status of population

A lynx in the wilds of Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists say they’re close to finalizing a plan to monitor the state’s lynx population by assessing habitat occupancy. If successful, the strategy would enable researchers to determine whether the population of endangered wild cats is sustaining itself over time.

The habitat occupancy model was tested in a pilot program in core lynx habitat in the San Juans a couple of years ago, showing that about 50 to 60 percent of the available lynx habitat is occupied. Now the biologists are trying to figure out if they can use the same method to keep tabs on lynx across the entire state.

Lynx have been listed as a threatened species since 2000, with a population in New Mexico currently under consideration for listing as a candidate species. Colorado launched a restoration program in 1999, transplanting more than 200 lynx from Canada and Alaska to the San Juans.

The reintroduction effort was declared a success about two years ago, after 10 years of intensive monitoring, with on-the ground visits to lynx dens, as well as tracking via airplanes and satellites. The tracking shows that the population has spread northward, with resident, breeding lynx up through the Collegiate Range and even into Summit County, with pockets of populations north of I-70.

In a draft report on the pilot study, biologists said it’s not feasible to accurately estimate population numbers, but assessing habitat use and occupancy can help determine whether the population is stable, growing or declining — and might also show trends in habitat use, for example in response to changing forest conditions. Colorado Parks and Wildlife lynx research is online here. Continue reading

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