Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding agricultural producers to inspect their fences and enclosures as a precaution to prevent winter damage from wildlife.
Every winter, deer and elk look for haystacks, orchards, nurseries and even barns in search of easy meals, explained Mark Caddy, game damage coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
"It's always time to think about how to protect crops and hay stacks," Caddy said. "By installing and repairing fences before the weather gets too cold, agricultural producers can save themselves a lot of hassle and thousands of dollars."
Through its game damage prevention program, Colorado Parks and Wildlife works with landowners and agricultural producers to provide a variety of fencing and protection materials. To determine eligibility for participating in the program, producers should contact the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office. A district wildlife manager will visit your property to discuss damage issues, protective solutions and techniques, and requirements and eligibility for participating in the program.
Game damage protection is provided to farmers, ranchers, livestock owners, beekeepers, and orchard and nursery owners who operate businesses. Cooperators also must be willing to allow some hunting on their properties -- if it can be safely accommodated -- for the species causing the damage.
For those eligible, the agency will deliver the materials at no charge directly to the building site. The landowner is responsible for assembling the enclosure and for maintaining the protective fences.
Caddy urges those already participating in the program to inspect their protective enclosures now to make sure there are no weak spots or breaks. As snow piles up and animals start looking for food sources, a small break in a fence can become a big problem during the winter. If problems can't be easily fixed, materials can be ordered from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make the repairs.
Those who are not participating in the program but who are concerned about possible game damage problems should call a local agency office.
J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison, said protecting hay stacks is especially important. A herd of elk can devastate a rancher's crop. Specially designed stack yard enclosures provide protection that can last for years.
"Building a stack yard is not a guarantee, but it is a significant step in lessening conflicts," Wenum said. "Elk are like most animals, if they are not getting the reward of a food source, they're going to move on."
To learn about the game damage program, call the nearest agency office. You'll be contacted by a district wildlife manager who will start the process for enrolling in the program.
Go to this link to find the Parks and Wildlife office closest to you: http://wildlife.state.co.us/About/OfficesAndPhone/Pages/ContactNumbers.aspx .