Community Agriculture Alliance: Agriculture and wildlife — how can we coexist? | SteamboatToday.com

Community Agriculture Alliance: Agriculture and wildlife — how can we coexist?

Kris Middledorf/For Steamboat Today

Where do the mule deer and elk herds go during the winter? When natural food sources are scarce, what do bears and mountain lions eat? In a county with diverse agriculture and abundant wildlife, conflicts can and do occur.

There is an almost daily struggle between producers protecting the things we all need for our daily existence — raw agricultural products for food and feeding livestock — and wildlife’s need for space and forage. These conflicts hit close to home for our local agriculture producers. Whether it’s depredation of livestock by black bear and mountain lions or elk foraging on growing or stacked hay, wildlife benefits from the habitat provided by our private landowners during the best and worst times of the year.

Fortunately, two programs administered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife can help mitigate conflicts that occur between wildlife and agricultural production — CPW’s Game Damage Program and Habitat Partnership Program. Both provide a variety of tools to help agricultural producers, including stack yards to protect hay; electric fencing to protect bee hives; high-visibility, vinyl wire fencing to minimize wildlife entanglement; deterrents such as cracker shells and rubber buckshot; and others.

In addition, CPW will reimburse eligible agricultural producers for their losses. This is a statutory requirement but also something we believe in, because private landowners provide a tremendous amount of habitat for all our wildlife species.

Beginning in July, the Habitat Partnership Program expanded its scope and is now able to fund projects that go beyond addressing conflicts between agriculture production and wildlife, including anything that will help maintain CPW’s game management objectives. A landowner who wants to improve habitat conditions on his or her property can bring project ideas to the local Upper Yampa HPP Committee. Examples or such projects include clearing thick brush or other vegetative treatments to improve habitat for wildlife or planting forage for wildlife in strategic locations, essentially encouraging wildlife to stay away from feeding on growing and stacked hay.

Our wildlife is a resource for everyone to enjoy, whether in a consumptive or non-consumptive manner, and it is our mission to protect this resource for Coloradans and our out-of-state visitors. That said, we are here to help our agricultural producers who struggle with conflicts involving wildlife.

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If you need assistance contact our Steamboat Springs office and ask to speak with your local district wildlife manager; he or she can lend a hand in a variety of ways, whether through our Game Damage Program or Habitat Partnership Program.

Kris Middledorf is Area 10 wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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