The fields are greening and the calves all are born. Spring is finally here after a long, white winter. With the onset of warm weather comes an increase in wildlife activity and their interaction with humans. Elk are moving to their summer grounds, bears have woken up from their long slumber and summer, which wildlife managers refer to as the “game damage season,” soon will be here.
Colorado is required by statute to provide compensation for agricultural damage caused by wildlife. The process may seem fairly clear at first glance, but as you read through the statute word for word, it can quickly become a blizzard of information that can be difficult to navigate.
Here are a few tips and steps that an agricultural business owner should consider when making a game damage claim:
■ If experiencing game damage, when possible, allow public hunting to occur on the property. The state is not liable for damage if there is an unreasonable restriction to hunting or if the fee for hunting access exceeds $500.
■ The state is responsible only for damage caused by big game. This includes bear, mountain lion, elk, deer, pronghorn and moose.
■ It is the responsibility of the claimant to prove the cause of damage. By statute, the claimant has 10 days to notify the agency. Keep in mind that environmental conditions can erase evidence quickly, so it is imperative that the claimant notify their local Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager as soon as possible. A representative of the agency will respond and conduct a full investigation of the damage. To assist the investigation, try not to remove evidence such as tracks, hair clumps and scat. A claimant will receive a packet of paperwork that must be completed before a claim is reviewed. The packet includes the following:
■ Discovery of Damage: Must be filled out and returned to the wildlife agent within 10 days of the discovery.
■ Ten-day Notification: Only for recurring damage to growing or harvested crops. This form must be filled out and delivered every 10 consecutive days.
■ Proof of Loss: Should be filled out and delivered within 90 days after the last 10-day Notification (or for single incident, the Discovery of Damage).
■ Itemized Losses Statement: Delivered with the “Proof of Loss” form. When itemizing the losses make sure that crop and livestock prices are consistent with current market value and livestock and crop weight are actual weights at the time of loss. The state is not responsible to reimburse for projected prices or weights.
Once the packet has been completed and returned, it can take as many as 30 days to completely investigate and review the claim. Negotiations and adjustments to the claim may be necessary for final approval.
Finally, remember that representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife always are available to help. Don’t hesitate to call your local wildlife manager with questions or concerns about filing a claim; we are here to make the process as easy as possible.
For more information about Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Game Damage Program, visit www.bit.ly/gamedamage.
Canterbury is a district wildlife manager based in Walden.