If you want a career in wildlife management, Northwest Colorado is one of the best places to be.
The region boasts more than 25 percent of Colorado's big game and some of the state's premier hunting areas.
The abundance of wildlife brought Bill de Vergie to the region in the 1990s and, after a couple years in Southern Colorado, brought him back this summer.
de Vergie is the Colorado Division of Wildlife area manager for the Northwest Region, which encompasses all of Moffat and Rio Blanco counties and parts of Routt and Grand counties.
"I like the open country," the 42-year-old Grand Junction native said. "No two days are ever the same."
de Vergie's first job with the DOW was in Dinosaur in 1991. Form there he went to Meeker in 1996 and then to Montrose in 2002.
When former area manager Dan Prenzlow left the Northwest District for a job in Colorado Springs a few months ago, de Vergie saw an opportunity to return to the area where his career started.
"When I had the chance to go back, I jumped at it," de Vergie said.
de Vergie's new home will be in Meeker, but he expects to spend at least a few days a week in Moffat County, especially during hunting season.
Growing up on the Western Slope, hunting and fishing were de Vergie's passions.
In college at the University of Colorado, de Vergie decided to turn his love of the outdoors into a career.
When he started his first job, de Vergie said it took him "all of one week" to know he was in the right line of work.
"I thought 'wow, what a way to make a living,'" he said.
de Vergie likes to work in places like Northwest Colorado where the challenges involve the sheer number of animals, as opposed to working in an urban area where wildlife managers have to juggle a wildlife population with a large human population. "There's more wildlife in the Meeker-Craig area than anywhere else in the state, by far." de Vergie said. "That's exciting to me."
Managing such a massive wildlife population gives him a sense of pride, but it also presents a wide array of challenges.
"We try to balance what sportsmen want and what the land can support," de Vergie said. "And that can be a challenge."
In Northwest Colorado, where hunting is big business, maintaining elk populations that keep hunters and their checkbooks coming in every fall, but don't get so large that they destroy agricultural lands is an ongoing challenge.
"We want to try to find that common ground," de Vergie said.
But, with a wide range of land users, including sportsmen, ranchers, wildlife watchers and energy developers, a common ground isn't always easy to find. "We try to manage wildlife to benefit people in Colorado and of course, those in other states," de Vergie said. "It's a big challenge."
The DOW doesn't just deal with wildlife management. Agents also are tasked with investigating and prosecuting poaching cases.
One of de Vergie's best memories from his 14-year DOW career was "Operation Dinosaur" in the mid 1990s. In that case, de Vergie and a team of DOW officers caught an outfitter guiding hunts in Dinosaur National Monument.
"That was great," de Vergie said. "I worked with a lot of great people."
In his spare time, de Vergie likes to do anything outdoors, whether it's hunting and fishing or riding bikes with his wife, Kathy, and two daughters, Rebecca, 12, and Amanda, 9.
"I like sports in general," de Vergie said.
When de Vergie was a field officer, he worked outside most of the time, but as an area manager, he spends most of his time inside or at meetings.
Even if he's behind a desk, his job is still exciting, de Vergie said. "There's never a dull moment."
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org