A herd of elk numbering more than 150 makes its way over a hill north of Craig. Prompted by concerns of local ranchers, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials have developed a plan they hope will lure elk away from feeding lines laid out by ranchers for cattle and sheep in the Maybell area. Officials expect to have two hay feeding areas installed by the end of the week.

File photo

A herd of elk numbering more than 150 makes its way over a hill north of Craig. Prompted by concerns of local ranchers, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials have developed a plan they hope will lure elk away from feeding lines laid out by ranchers for cattle and sheep in the Maybell area. Officials expect to have two hay feeding areas installed by the end of the week.

DOW hopes to mitigate elk, rancher encounters


Moffat County resident Darryl Steele said he woke up Monday morning to quite a sight in his pasture three miles east of Maybell.

About 40 elk had moved onto Steele’s land and were looking for a rare meal in the harsh winter conditions, he said.

The elk were contained in an area about 100 yards from Steele’s home and closely shared the area with his cattle and horses — something concerning to the rancher and former Moffat County Commissioner.

“They had the horses pushed back off of the bales of hay,” Steele said of the elk. “There was about 15 of them eating in there and I’m not as worried about what they’re eating as I am about those bulls putting a horn in one of those horses.”

The scene Monday morning on Steele’s property is one familiar to ranchers in the Maybell and Sunbeam area in the winter months, he said.

Prompted by concerns of ranchers like Steele, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials have developed a plan they hope can mitigate the situation and prevent damage and other losses caused by the elk.

According to a news release, in the next several days the DOW plans to place hay in two areas several miles north of the Yampa River near Maybell in hopes of luring elk away from feeding lines laid out by ranchers for cattle and sheep.

DOW officials understand the effort will not completely eliminate agricultural damage from elk, but the plan is designed to curb the damage done to livestock operations on pastures, according to the release.

DOW officials also hope to prevent elk from injuring livestock and possibly trampling calves born in late February and early March as a result of winter conditions.

“We’re concerned about the situation in the Maybell area,” DOW area wildlife manager Bill de Vergie said in the release. “With more snow and more winter on the way, we're working hard to minimize losses to the ranching community.”

DOW officials cited heavier-than-usual snowfall in the Maybell area as cause for elk migrating in search of accessible food.

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, more than 30 inches of snow fell in the Maybell area during December, which is about two-and-a-half times the monthly average, the DOW reported.

Steele said this isn’t the first time, however, winter conditions have caused elk to encroach on the area. Three years ago, he said “the elk were in on us bad,” and this year, ranchers hope to avoid similar circumstances.

“We didn’t get the cooperation out of the (DOW) as good then and by the time they finally got around to it, the weather broke and the elk went back, but that was later in February,” he said. “So, we are trying to be more proactive on this thing this time and take care of the problem while it is still a problem and not after the fact.”

DOW Director Tom Remington said in the release that those conditions experienced in the winter of 2007 and 2008 resulted in more than $125,000 in game damage claims for lost hay.

“That’s unacceptable to them and us and we are going to do our best to keep the level of damage as low as possible,” he said.

DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said the DOW hopes to be more effective this winter than three years ago.

“We think we have got some better locations charted out to conduct the operation, so I think we have learned from (2007 and 2008) and we can actually probably do better this time, we hope,” he said.

Steele said he was pleased with the DOW’s response to local ranchers’ concerns.

“They appear to be willing to work with us and see if we can get rid of the problem without too much of a confrontation,” he said.

The DOW reported that the operation is not a feeding operation designed to prevent the starvation of wildlife in harsh winter, which is prohibited except in certain circumstances.

“This is not a feeding operation,” DOW northwest regional manager Ron Velarde said in the release. “That's a last resort when large-scale starvation is likely and we don’t anticipate that. What we’re trying to do is bait elk away from ranches.”

In addition to the baiting operation, the DOW is giving ranchers game damage panels to fence elk away from their hay stacks and pyrotechnic shotgun rounds to “haze them off,” according to the release.

For damage prevention materials, call a local DOW office. A list of those offices can be found at http://wildlife.state.co.us/About/OfficesAndPhone/.

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Colette Erickson 4 years, 3 months ago

Any chance that DOW could acquire that huge hay stack just northwest of the YVEA office on the old highway? It cannot be sold or used by the landowner. Might as well bait the elk on that parcel as well - they have been coming in on livestock owners all around there.


mballeck 4 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for the heads up, 3canines! We got that fixed! — Michelle Balleck, online content producer for the Craig Daily Press


Colette Erickson 4 years, 3 months ago

Ms. Balleck: I remember doing exercises such as this ("bale"/"bail"; "rein"/"reign"; "knight"/"night", etc.) in grade school. I am stunned every time I see such a gaff in an article written by a professional journalist who is a college graduate.


wellwell 4 years, 3 months ago

Oh come on, a mistake is just a mistake. We all make them and Michelle even thanked you for "the heads up" and "We got it fixed!"

Once thanked common courtesy is to quietly accept the thank you as an assurance that you were helpful.


als362 4 years, 3 months ago

And these people actually expect people to pay $.25 for one of their papers, and they cannot even spell simple words. This entire deal is just too funny to be true.


Becky Plummer 4 years, 3 months ago



GreyStone 4 years, 3 months ago

Hay, I think they were talking about Hey, U think!!


als362 4 years, 3 months ago

If stating the facts is a representation of hate to "metoo" he/she must live in a very sad world indeed.


Becky Plummer 4 years, 2 months ago

To als362-- Or perhaps a more adult one? One where you dont have to make yourself feel more surperior to another by pointing out a mistake and keep harping on it. Enough said on this subject. See that is how adults do it!


GreyStone 4 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps Insecure individuals are the first to waste their & other’s time correcting someone else’s spelling, on an internet web site, like this,attempting to cause a distraction so we forget what the subject was. This spelling thing might be a scheme.


wellwell 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, to me it sounds like the DOW has a good plan. Baiting the elk to an area away for ranching hay and ranching livestock field feeding areas sounds good.

Due to my lack of knowledge I have some questions: (1) Do the bull elk gore domestic animals in feeding areas to move the animals from the food? (2) When are elk bulls in rut? Does this have anything to do with damage to domestic animals? (3) Is DOW feeding on private land?

I'm trying to learn more . Thanks, if you can give me info.


GreyStone 4 years, 2 months ago

Cow & Bull elk will fight for feed…horses, cows anything standing in the way. Elk will do considerable amount of damage to fencing in a stack yard while feeding. Hunger is a great motivation.


Colette Erickson 4 years, 2 months ago

wellwell: This is not just a simple spelling error. The different spellings are different words, with different meanings. A "bale" of hay is used to feed livestock. To "bail" out is jail is to post a surety to secure one's future appearance in court. I may sound pedantic, but these are things that a grade-school child should know, much less a college-educated "professional journalist". If you are going to write an article and put your name on it, shouldn't it be correct? That sloppiness such as this is tolerated is one of the reasons why American education is slipping in the global rankings.


GreyStone 4 years, 2 months ago

State of Colorado & some ranchers make considerable amount of money raising and slaughtering wildlife. They ought to take some responsibility for the maintenance of this wildlife during the winter months, however they both contend this is an undeserved imposition when winter, inexpertly comes around each year.


Taxpayer 4 years, 2 months ago

3canines --- Pedantic -- I have not seen that word since my College English Professor had entire lecture on the future of the English Language – and boy, was he futuristic. I doubt he would approve of texting as he had a high regard for the English language in written and oral forms of communication. Well Done and a good word for the day. I am wondering how many people had to check their Thesaurus or Dictionary to get the meaning.


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