OUT: Sunday Column March 01, 2009

There’s been no shortage of newsworthy events for sportsmen here lately

What a week for sportsmen.

One of our favorite fishing spots was put on the “don’t eat the fish” list, a cow elk was seen wearing a bar stool just in time for Mardi Gras and the latest but probably not the last Yellowstone wolf was tracked to Colorado.

It’s all in a week’s work.

First off, though, the presentation titled “Birds of Bosque” by local photographer Steve Traudt planned for Wednesday’s Colorado Mountain Club meeting has been postponed indefinitely.

As of deadline there was no word of a replacement program.

The fish consumption advisory at Rifle Gap Reservoir and several other regional waters, including Juniata and Elkhead reservoirs, Lake Granby and Catamount Lake, shouldn’t stop you from fishing at those lakes and even taking an occasional fish for the cooker.

Trout are safe, since they accumulate mercury in their tissues like some warm- and cool-water predator fish. These include large- and smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye, all of which are on the watch-what-you-eat list.

As Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton emphasized, this isn’t a ban on fishing or eating fish; it’s merely an advisory to cut back on your fish consumption, especially if you’re pregnant or under 6 years old.

“It’s OK to continue fishing,” Hampton said. “But it’s probably a good thing not to eat fish every meal.”

And we’re assured by the City of Grand Junction that the water is safe too since the dissolved mercury is in a form unavailable to humans and in such infinitesimally small doses that even sophisticated monitoring devices have trouble picking up indications.

That cow elk near Eagle with the bar stool around its neck doesn’t seem too impaired, at least according to those who have watched the hapless animal.

“It seems to be feeding and moving around OK,” Hampton said.

You can see a photo by going to http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/18793588/detail.html#-.

Division biologists would like to stick a tranquilizer dart into the cow and remove the stool. But stabbing a drug-loaded syringe into an elk comes with some baggage.

Tranquilizers are administered according to an animal’s weight, explained Hampton, and without a pretty tight range of weight, the dosage may be too light or too heavy, neither of which will get the results wanted.

It’s not the first time elk and other animals with head ornamentation have become tangled in society’s webs. There are reports each year from Estes Park of clotheslines stripped, sometimes fully loaded, by errant elk wandering that town’s neighborhoods.

Last week’s report of the female wolf that was tracked from Yellowstone down to Eagle County by way of, well, by way of lots of places considering she put on 1,000 miles to travel 450 in a direct line, attracted a lot of response.

Wolves hit the right buttons for many people, both pro- and anti-predator. The Division of
Wildlife, and for some obvious reasons, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, maintain there are no free-roaming wolves (except wolf 314F) in Colorado. That’s an important distinction, since it’s probable there are some wolf and wolf-dog hybrids in private — very private — ownership.

Every time a report of wolves comes up, there are people with credible and incredible stories about seeing or hearing wolves in this state.

I received an e-mail from outdoor writer Colin VanLeuvin of Michigan, who wrote he owns a cottage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where several hundred of the state’s estimated 500 wolves roam. Sportsmen in northern Michigan are very familiar with wolves, and VanLeuvin, who hunted and fished around wolves for many years, said he’s sure he’s heard the howl of wolves in Colorado.

If someone from, say, Boulder tried to convince me they had seen a wolf in the Flatirons Mall, I’d have good reason to be skeptical.

But when someone with many years of experience differentiating between wolves and coyotes says he’s heard wolves, it makes you wonder who’s watching you in the dark.

Colorado is a big state with wild country. It was thought grizzlies were exterminated in 1952 but then outfitter Ed Wiseman killed a female grizzly in 1972, and there’s still some discussion if that truly was Colorado’s last grizzly.

If the wilds can hide a grizzly or two, a smart she-wolf and her mate may go years undetected. 


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