Controlling fertility: Wildlife commission considers allowing DOW to manage problems

Elk herds in Colorado, such as this small herd near Gunnison, traditionally have been controlled by legal hunting seasons. A policy proposal before the Colorado Wildlife Commission would open the door to using fertility drugs in cases were hunting isn’t feasible or allowed.

Taking care of business with a needle, not a gun, will be on the agenda this week for the Colorado Wildlife Commission.

When the commission sits down to its December workshop Thursday in Pueblo, among the items set for adoption is a formal policy on using fertility control on wildlife.

The policy allows the Colorado Division of Wildlife the “limited use of fertility control to manage problem or nuisance wildlife under very specific conditions.”

Controlling wildlife populations with drugs, hormones or neutering has been a touchy subject for as long as this reporter has been trailing the DOW.

Some of the concerns include how to reach the target animals (they don’t stand around waiting for that dart gun in the hip), whether drugs will be effective, and the potential for a lingering aftereffect of certain drugs, particularly if that animal is harvested by a hunter.

But there also are some cases where fertility control might be the only acceptable answer. I didn’t say reasonable, only acceptable.

Actually, only a few cases come to mind, including Rocky Mountain National Park. Elk herds in the park are devastating the habitat but an impasse remains between the state and federal officials over allowing hunting in the park.

Non-hunters (and anti-hunters, not the same thing) vouch for fertility control, saying it will achieve the desired goal without the sights and sounds that accompany hunting.

The DOW has long taken the stance that tightly restricted hunting would not only cull the overwhelming elk populations but probably fits better with the state’s long-held contention that wildlife in Colorado belongs to the state, not a federal agency.

I’m not saying the DOW is eyeing the elk in Rocky for this policy, only that the park is one of the few places (there also are the open-space deer herds around Boulder) I can think of where fertility control has been listed as a solution to an on-going problem.

Of course, there are some folks proposing returning wolves to Rocky Mountain National Park, an idea that has met with less-than-lukewarm enthusiasm by the state, ranchers and others. Wolves might control the elk, but how would you control the wolves?

That’s a problem with which Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are wrestling right now.

The debate on the fertility policy, as well as the rest of the commission meeting, can be heard live online at, click on wildlife commission and then click on “listen to live audio.”

International Sportsman’s Expo hits Denver: Leave a few dates open on your calendar for the 33rd annual International Sportsmen’s Exposition from Jan. 7-10 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Winter isn’t winter without a visit to this long-time favorite of the cabin- fever crowd. About 500 exhibitors will be strutting their stuff during the four-day gathering.

Exhibitors include hunting and fishing outfitters and guides, outdoor products ranging form optics to ATVs, travel destinations and resorts, and as many seminars and demonstrations as you can squeeze into four days.

Tickets are $15 for adults, kids 15 and under get in free. Information at

Open house focus on McInnis Canyons: It’s hard to tell how many Grand Valley residents recreate in some way in and around the slickrock benches of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, but the guess here is it’s a considerable number.

That means there should be considerable interest in a open house the Bureau of Land Management is holding Dec. 14 to talk about the NCA.

Specifically, the public meeting will discuss existing hiking and horseback trails in Kodels, Devils, Flume and Pollock canyons, as well as the Opal Hill area.

Simply put, the BLM is interested in seeing if the trail system is satisfying the needs of the users and if not, why not.

“The purpose of this meeting is to make sure that we continue to implement our Resource Management Plan by managing for a sustainable hiking and equestrian trail system in this heavily used area near Fruita,” said Katie Stevens, McInnis Canyons NCA manager.

You can put in your money’s worth Dec. 14 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Fruita Civic Center in the Rotary Room.

Information: Gene Arnesen at the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office, 244-3083, or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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