East Vail wildlife fence seems to work, but it’s ugly | VailDaily.com
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East Vail wildlife fence seems to work, but it’s ugly

The chain link and coiled-wire fence may be up for another three months or so

The salty taste of de-icer compound draws wintering bighorn sheep onto Vail's frontage road, and sometimes Interstate 70.
Debbie Eno | Special to the Daily

This has been a hard winter for the bighorn sheep in East Vail, with three animals killed by cars on or near Interstate 70.

In response, the town of Vail and Colorado Parks and Wildlife put up emergency fencing in the area.

The fencing has stopped any more sheep-vehicle accidents in the short time it’s been up, but the barrier is drawing complaints about its visual impact.

Vail Town Councilmember Jenn Bruno noted she’d heard complaints from some residents.

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“Residents are upset,” Bruno said, adding that some have said the fence looks more appropriate for a high-security prison.

“Barbed wire at the entrance to Vail … that’s not Vail,” Bruno said.

Vail Town Manager Scott Robson acknowledged that the fence isn’t “aesthetically pleasing,” but added that town and wildlife officials decided that quick action was needed to try to avoid any more animal deaths on the site.

Given the small size of the herd, and the fact that many of the animals are habituated to lick salt from the roads this time of year, Robson said wildlife officials “didn’t have any better answers than this one.”

Robson noted that the coils of wire atop the chain-link fence were needed to meet state requirements for a fence 8 feet tall.

The fence will be up for another three months or so, Robson said. By then, the sheep should have migrated to higher-elevation terrain on the north side of I-70.

Robson said the most recent count shows “almost 50” ewes and lambs in the area near the East Vail interchange. Councilmember Kim Langmaid said she’d spotted 13 rams, which tend to gather in the area above the Vail Public Works shops about a mile west of the East Vail interchange.

Robson added that progress is being made on creating a plan to conduct thinning and prescribed burning on roughly 4,500 acres of land in the area.

But before any work is done, the U.S. Forest Service will require an environmental assessment for the proposal. Robson said the town is now soliciting bids for a company to do the scientific work to accommodate the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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