Elk a new addition to Eagle Ranch
EAGLE – The elk did not always winter on Eagle Ranch. When the area was ranching land it was unsuitable for the elk.”Originally, there weren’t that many elk out there,” said Bill Heicher, Eagle’s open space coordinator. “Partly because it was a ranch, partly because there weren’t as many elk. There really wasn’t that much to eat on the ranch lands, except for leftover hay.”As the population of elk grew, and ranching began to go downhill, the situation favored the elk.”The elk want to find a place where they are not going to be harassed,” said Heicher. “At the same time, like typical wild animals, they are opportunistic. Some of that stuff out at Eagle Ranch (golf course) is like eating at a gourmet restaurant for them. It’s watered, it’s fertilized, there is all sorts of exotic vegetation, and over the years elk get accustomed to people and will put up with a lot.”Craig Wescoatt, district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, agrees that elk, like all wildlife, are looking for four basic things. “What animals are looking for is food, solitude, water and space. They want to be away from people,” said Wescoatt. “It is hard to find all four of those things in the lower elevations of the Eagle Valley.”However, the reality of the situation remains, said Wescoatt.”People are the predator to these animals as far as they are concerned,” he said.Heicher said Eagle Ranch is going through a transformation similar to what he has seen in other parts of the Eagle Valley.”Eagle-Vail, Arrowhead and Beaver Creek all used to be home to hundreds of elk,” said Heicher. “Now, you would be lucky to even see an elk up there. They are getting pushed out by development.”But there will always be animals out at Eagle Ranch, partly because of Eagle’s efforts, he said. “The town has done a heck of a good job of trying to preserve the natural habitat,” said Heicher.