DOW responds to Craig mayor Don Jones

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Craig City Council member Ray Beck said he was pleased with the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s recent response to a letter from Craig Mayor Don Jones.

“I think they are showing a willingness to collaborate and work with the city and city council,” he said. “I thought overall that we might have some working solutions that would work for all the citizens of Craig.”

Jones’s letter, which was sent in late November, asked for more information on several options for dealing with the city’s deer population.

Jones inquired about a mass trapping and relocation of deer, a possible archery hunting season outside the city limits and handling aggressive, sick and injured deer individually.

The DOW addressed each of the mayor’s concerns in its letter written by Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde, which was sent to the council Monday.

Velarde wrote that a mass trapping and relocation of deer is not an option the DOW would pursue. There will be a “very high” mortality rate among those deer “translocated,” Velarde wrote.

“Ultimately, trapping and relocating the deer will result in the same outcome as sharp-shooting: the majority of deer will still perish, but will do so in a different location,” the letter reads. “Given that the outcome is likely to be the same, we do not believe relocating deer is a humane or cost-effective approach for dealing with individual animals.”

The DOW, Velarde said, “remains willing” to respond to the sick, injured and aggressive deer in the city.

“Our officers are trained to take quick, effective action to protect public health and safety,” he wrote in the letter. “This has been part of our wildlife officers’ core responsibilities for many years and will continue to be in the future.”

Velarde wrote that responding to calls of sick or aggressive deer is a “high priority,” but, “limited budgets and resources mean our officers are stretched thin, and responses could take a little time during busy periods.”

Velarde also wrote the DOW sees “no benefit” in a limited archery hunting season outside city limits given landowner opposition and “the lack of any significant population reduction in town.”

“We respect the city’s decision to not explore sharp-shooting to reduce the population of deer within city limits,” Velarde writes in the letter. “We do not believe that an archery-only hunting season would be effective in reducing the city’s deer population. The hunt around the periphery of town was originally proposed to augment in a minor way the reduction of deer populations within town via sharp-shooting.”

In the letter, Velarde praised the council for developing an ordinance against the feeding of deer and other big game.

“We fully support that effort and hope the citizens of Craig do as well,” the letter reads. “Regardless of their intentions, people who intentionally feed deer are raising the risks to people and pets by training deer to not fear humans and giving them a reason to be in close proximity to people and pets.”

Velarde also wrote he would be pleased to assign DOW staff to help organize “educational workshops and other outreach strategies to build a common, science-based understanding of the cause of urban deer conflicts and potential solutions.”

Council member Jennifer Riley said the DOW’s letter addressed her concerns about dealing with sick, injured and aggressive deer.

“I think that the letter that the Division of Wildlife wrote to us states very explicitly that they are willing to deal with these animals on a case-by-case basis, and this letter publicly demonstrates to our community that they will address these problems,” she said.

Riley said the council would likely discuss the DOW’s letter at its next meeting, but is unsure how the council will address the deer issue beyond that.

“Beyond this, I am not sure where else we can go,” she said. “Other than continuing to provide education and work with the Division of Wildlife on education, I don’t know that there is anywhere else for us to go other than to hold the DOW … to their word.”

Craig City Council meets next at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at Craig City Hall, 300 W. Fourth St.

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