CO Parks and Wildlife – The Pagosa Springs SUN The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 16 Jan 2020 17:11:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bighorn sheep research project continuing Sun, 19 Jan 2020 12:00:00 +0000 By Esther Godson
Special to The SUN
To gain a better understanding of wild Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the U.S. Forest Service will continue their efforts on a five-year project to study the cliff-dwelling mammal.
Starting in late January or as conditions allow, a helicopter crew will be used to locate and capture bighorns and fit them with GPS telemetry collars. The collars will allow biologists to follow daily movements of the animals and determine what areas of the wilderness they use.
Crews may also swab nasal tissue and take blood samples that could be used to determine if the bighorns have been exposed to diseases that can adversely affect the animals. These actions will help the agencies achieve conservation objectives for bighorn sheep herds on National Forest System lands. This will be the third year that helicopter crews will be used to capture and collar bighorns in the Weminuche Wilderness.
The remote nature of the Weminuche bighorn herds has made detecting and monitoring the animals from the ground difficult. Consequently, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region has approved landing the helicopter in the wilderness for the project. Weather permitting, the capture crew will attempt to capture up to 15 animals. They anticipate one to two days of flight operations with no more than 34 landings. In the primary capture area, roughly between Vallecito Creek and Wolf Creek Pass, there are about 395 bighorns that reside primarily in the Weminuche Wilderness.
“We don’t know a lot about how these bighorns use the landscape,” said Brad Weinmeister, a terrestrial biologist for CPW in Durango. “We know that this area provides good habitat, but we’d like to get more information to help us with management plans.”
Four of the five Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herds occurring on the San Juan National Forest are in the Weminuche Wilderness.
CPW considers the Weminuche population to be a top priority for statewide inventory and monitoring, habitat protection and improvement, disease prevention and research. The project is being funded by the U.S. Forest Service, CPW and the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society.
If you have specific wildlife questions, please contact Joe Lewandowski, public information officer, CPW Southwest Region, at 375-6708.

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW Thu, 16 Jan 2020 22:00:45 +0000 2019 was a busy and interesting year in Pagosa Country. There was no want for good news, bad news, controversial issues, and no lack of interesting news events to keep SUN readers focused on local events, situations and personalities.
The SUN is taking a look back at some of those events, selected by SUN staff writers. This week, we look back at July, August and September.


• At a Future of Power Supply Information Series meeting held in Pagosa Springs on July 1, La Plata Electric Association representatives discussed the future of energy and a potential buyout of its existing power-supply contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

Wolf reintroduction initiative qualifies for 2020 ballot Thu, 16 Jan 2020 22:00:06 +0000 The Restoration of Gray Wolves Initiative has qualified for Colorado’s 2020 ballot.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office made the announcement in a press release on Jan. 6.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

Shop with a Cop Sun, 15 Dec 2019 12:00:34 +0000

SUN photos/Chris Mannara

Cops shopped until they dropped at the inaugural Shop With a Cop event sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Durango Lodge 8. The event took place at the local Walmart and included food from McDonald’s and featured members of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Pagosa Springs Police Department, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Durango Police Department, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, Archuleta County Combined Dispatch and Archuleta County Emergency Management shopping with families for the holiday season. Each child received a $150 budget for clothing and toys while paired with a local law enforcement officer.

Commissioners may oppose wolf reintroduction Thu, 12 Dec 2019 11:57:38 +0000 The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) may publicly oppose a ballot initiative that would reintroduce gray wolves to Colorado.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

Free entry to state parks on Black Friday Thu, 28 Nov 2019 12:00:59 +0000 By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN
You can reclaim Nov. 29 by avoiding the shopping hysteria and getting outside for a breath of fresh air. On Fresh Air Friday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) welcomes visitors to any of our 41 state parks by providing free entry in what has become an annual tradition of encouraging Coloradans to get out and give thanks.
“Studies have shown that spending time outside, no matter the activity, is great for your health,” said Dan Prenzlow, director of CPW. “We’re actively encouraging folks to enjoy their natural surroundings with family and friends rather than participate in the usual shopping frenzy. After all, the Colorado outdoors are the best deal out there.”
However you decide to get outdoors this Fresh Air Friday, CPW has the tools to make it an easy, stress-free experience for the whole family. Discover your new favorite state park with our state park finder, plan a short stroll or thorough post-Thanksgiving workout with our free COTREX trails app, find a secluded fishing spot with our CPW Fishing App or have fun with the kids with Generation Wild’s 100 Things to Do Before You’re 12 list.
To help conserve our natural spaces and keep them wild while recreating, please be sure to follow Leave No Trace Principles. Be Colo-Ready with common-sense practices such as sticking to the trails and packing out all trash (including peels and cores), visiting less-visited and off-peak destinations and keeping wildlife at a safe distance (use your zoom for photos and never feed wildlife).
For more details on these activities or to get more ideas on how to Live Life Outside, visit
As you enjoy a day of outdoor adventures, make sure to share it with us by using the hashtag #FreshAirFriday on your social media posts.
Most importantly, no matter where you go, get out and turn Black Friday into a blue skies Friday, a great views Friday, a green trees Friday — a Fresh Air Friday.

OHV grants available for up to 100 percent of project costs Wed, 27 Nov 2019 22:00:56 +0000 By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) Trails Program encourages local, county and state governments, federal agencies, special recreation districts and nonprofit organizations to apply for available off-highway vehicle (OHV) grant funding before the application period ends on Dec. 2.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

Survey work to start at Sambrito Wetlands in Navajo State Park Fri, 15 Nov 2019 12:00:50 +0000 By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN
A crew from Ducks Unlimited will be doing surveys in the Sambrito Wetlands area of Navajo State Park during the next couple of weeks.
The crew is authorized to ride OHVs through the area to do the work; Colorado Parks and Wildlife stated there’s no reason to report the activity.
The Sambrito area, which is at the west end of the park, is being surveyed to determine what improvements can be made to enhance the wetlands.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Reclamation and Ducks Unlimited are working cooperatively on the project that will greatly improve the wildlife habitat in that area. Wetlands provide habitat for every species of wildlife and help to improve water quality.
Structures to help control and move water will be installed. Construction is scheduled to start some time next fall.

CPW hopes enhanced wetlands will help boreal toad survival Wed, 13 Nov 2019 12:00:11 +0000

Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife
In an ongoing conservation project, Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently release 1,700 boreal toad toadlets in a wetland in the San Juan mountains.

By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN
In mid-September, biologist Dan Cammack walked slowly along the edge of a boggy pond in the San Juan Mountains high above the San Luis Valley and peered into the mud and black water looking for a camouflaged critter the size of a dime.
After just a couple minutes, he saw the jumping movements of tiny boreal toads. The amphibians, colored a brownish-black, sat in the mud, on rocks, in the grass or moved on the top of the water attempting to stay clear of danger. Cammack had placed the toads in the ponds for the first time a few weeks earlier.
“Watch where you step,” Cammack said. “We don’t want to step on them.”
The toads are precious. Twenty years ago, they were abundant throughout Colorado’s high country. Today, however, they are scarce as they battle the mysterious chytrid fungus that is threatening amphibians throughout the world.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) biologists are working statewide to revive populations of these high-altitude amphibians that live from 8,000 to 13,000 feet. But as is the nature of wildlife research, biologists will not know for at least three years if the work will help toads survive.
To start the process, Cammack and his crew collected eggs from two wetlands in the Triangle Pass area near Crested Butte. The fertilized eggs, collected in early summer, were then taken to CPW’s Native Aquatic Species Hatchery in Alamosa, where they were hatched in captivity. By late summer, they grew into tadpoles and were ready for stocking in the San Juans.
In the high country above the San Luis Valley, the West Fork Fire in 2013 burned through 100,000 acres of forest.
Paul Jones, a now retired CPW biologist, had seen research that suggested burned areas might prevent development of the chytrid fungus. He also knew, based on historic records, that toads had once inhabited the area. So, he worked with the Rio Grande National Forest, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project and the San Luis Valley Water Conservation District to build small levies in a wetland area to enhance and enlarge optimal reproductive boreal toad habit. The area mimics wetlands created by beaver ponds — favorite breeding areas for toads.
In late August, Cammack and his crew released about 2,700 tadpoles for the first time into the ponds. He traveled back to the area in mid-September to check if the tadpoles had transitioned to toadlets. All along the edge of the five-acre pond, he saw toadlets moving, swimming and hiding.
“It looks like we have a lot of survival,” Cammack said. “The next critical test comes when we come back next spring to see if they survived the winter and hibernation.”
What is particularly challenging for the biologists is that young toads are less likely than adults to contract the fungus. So biologists have to wait to know if toads are affected.
“Making a determination about whether the site is positive for chytrid will not be established for about three years,” Cammack explained. “And reproductive maturity is not reached for five or six years, so it will take patience to see if the toads will breed in these ponds.”
Until then, Cammack and his crew will continue to collect eggs and release tadpoles into the ponds. The ongoing work is needed to maintain multiple “age classes” of the amphibians.
Cammack noted that he has found a few boreal toads at various locations in the mountains. However, outside of the Triangle Pass area, breeding in the wild has been unsuccessful.
“While each sighting is encouraging, the numbers are a mere shadow of the past when toads were once thriving in the region,” Cammack said. “We hope that careful management and novel approaches to encourage reproduction will keep boreal toads from disappearing.”
CPW biologists throughout the state are working on a variety of boreal toad conservation projects.
“We’re working on creative ideas to help bring these toads back. Building these ponds in this burn area is one idea. Hopefully, one of them will work, but it will take time,” Cammack said.
And he’s hopeful: “With wildlife we have to manage with optimism.”

Hunters urged to be extremely cautious with campfires Sat, 26 Oct 2019 11:00:32 +0000 By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN
Because of extremely dry conditions throughout the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is urging hunters to be extra careful with their camp fires.
Hunters are heading to the high country for the combined deer and elk season that starts Saturday and continues through Oct. 27. Colorado has received little rain since late summer and several fires are now burning throughout the state. Fire can spread quickly through grasses and other dry vegetation.
Hunters, and anyone else camping, are urged to follow these precautions:
• Keep fires small and always keep them attended.
• When heading to bed, make sure the fire is out completely by soaking it thoroughly with water and checking for hot embers.
• If you start a fire in the morning, make sure it is completely out before heading into the field for the day.
• Any time you leave camp, make sure the fire is out.
• In windy conditions, it is recommended not to start a campfire.
• If you are using a wall tent with a wood stove, make sure there is a screen to block sparks on top of the external stovepipe. Check outside the tent occasionally for embers that might be smoldering.
• Don’t drive or park your vehicle over dry grass. Hot exhaust pipes can ignite vegetation. This applies to trucks, cars and off-highway vehicles.
• Don’t allow vehicle chains to drag on the ground or pavement because they can cause sparks.
• Dispose of cigarette butts safely; don’t toss them on the ground.