Our View: When wildlife officers can’t win
February 5, 2019
Our state's wildlife managers are often put into no-win situations.
The most recent came last month in Glenwood Springs, where wildlife officers trapped and euthanized five mountain lions that had started hunting in the western part of that town.
The action came with a good bit of public outrage. Story comments on the Glenwood Springs Post Independent's website excoriated wildlife officers, as well as people who live in the neighborhood.
Those people make some good points. Those of us who live in the mountains have moved into wildlife country. From bears to mountain lions to marmots, it's up to us to do our best to coexist with wildlife.
But sometimes humans and animals can't coexist. That's when human life and safety comes first.
Here's where wildlife officers can't win.
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Colorado Parks & Wildlife is charged with protecting and managing wildlife throughout the state. That means preserving wildlife whenever possible.
Anyone who has attended public meetings with this county's wildlife officers quickly learns that those people are serious about that job. Wildlife officers, particularly in meetings regarding development proposals, are usually blunt in their assessments that more development isn't in the best interests of the area's animals.
But when animals and humans come into conflict, wildlife officers are going to act in favor of humans every time.
In the experience of the reporters at this newspaper, wildlife officers universally hate the part of their jobs that require them to take an animal's life.
This usually happens with bears, which are more likely to scrounge for food in human neighborhoods. Bears don't care much for humans but can be pretty brazen, and there are occasional reports of big ursines on the Front Range.
The state has what it calls a "two-strike" policy for bears that are trapped in and around neighborhoods or have attacked campers. That's actually a one-strike policy, since animals are trapped and relocated once. A second offense is a death sentence.
Mountain lions are far more human-shy than bears, and far more effective predators. A mountain lion that has lost its fear of humans is a real danger, to both pets and humans.
No one likes the idea of euthanizing wildlife, and all of us should do whatever we can to keep bears and mountain lions out of our neighborhoods. But when it's necessary to take an animal's life, we need to understand that no one takes pleasure in the act.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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