As the dialogue over the town deer continues, there have been claims made on both sides about the abundance of the deer within the city limits - some say there were never deer here in the early days of the town. Others claim that the deer were here first.
While doing research for a recent history story, I found a commentary from A.G. Wallihan, the famous wildlife photographer from the 1880s through 1935, on the subject of wildlife in Northwest Colorado. From his observations, both camps in the current debate are partly correct, depending on the timeframe they are using for reference.
"When I came to the county in July 1882, there was no settlement from Hayden to Lay and none west of Lay - a wilderness - filled with game, consisting of deer, elk and antelope by the thousands. Two miles north of Lay was one of the greatest deer trails of this vast game refuge, for it was a "refuge" as they had been gradually driven over the range west from the settled country along the mountains and eastern slope by the ever increasing army of settlers, who were stopped by the great range of the Rockies.
"Only the hardiest had crossed this great range, hence the game had found a great refuge and had multiplied and increased until they were literally in countless thousands. The advent of the whites after the Indians were removed to Utah following the Thornburg and Meeker fights soon began to decimate them, especially after the whites began buying buckskin from the Indians. And four horse loads (very large wagons) of buckskin went out to the railroads north and south, and few white men also killed them for their hides, and in the case of the elk, their meat, which was shipped from Rawlins, Wyo, by the carload. They could not long stand this great drain, and they are practically gone. Quite a few deer remain, some elk in the Flat Tops of White River, and a few dozen antelope west of Snake River is all of the once vast herds." (Craig Empire December 30, 1925)
It would seem that the deer and antelope are attempting a comeback in our generation, but it would be a tragedy if we repeated the disgrace of those early settlers and cleared out the wildlife that is so much a part of this corner of Colorado.
My husband and I feel honored when the deer bring their fawns to play on our property and that they feel safe in our tiny corner of Craig. We don't want to see them on the verge of extinction again.