Aaron Berscheid is a district wildlife officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Aaron covers the “wild” side of Northeast El Paso County, including Black Forest, Falcon, Peyton and Calhan. He also covers some of Elbert County, north of U.S. Highway 24 and south of State Highway 86, including the towns of Elbert, Kiowa, Ramah, Simla, Matheson and a small portion of the Limon area.
Ever wonder what you're allowed to do or not do when it comes to wildlife on your property?
There are a lot of laws and regulations on this topic, and I will help you understand what you can do, legally, to deal with critters that are not cooperating.
At the risk of getting too technical, I think it helps to look at the actual law. Colorado Revised Statute No. 33-6-107(9) states: “Any person, any member of such person’s family, or any employee of the person may hunt, trap, or take black-billed magpies, common crows, starlings, English or house sparrows, common pigeons, coyotes, bobcats, red foxes, raccoons, jackrabbits, badgers, marmots, prairie dogs, pocket gophers, Richardson’s ground squirrels, rock squirrels, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, porcupines, crayfish, tiger salamanders, muskrats, beavers, exotic wildlife, and common snapping turtles on lands owned or leased by the person without securing licenses to do so, but only when such wildlife is causing damage to crops, real or personal property, or livestock. Any person may kill skunks or rattlesnakes when necessary to protect life or property. The pelts or hides of any mammals taken under this subsection (9) may be transferred, possessed, traded, bartered, or sold by a person who holds an appropriate small game license.” (Emphasis added is by me.) In addition to this statute, Wildlife Commission Regulation #17123 and #1741 allows for the trapping or take of tree squirrels, cottontail rabbits, porcupines, bats, mice (except Preble's meadow jumping mouse), opossums, voles, rats, and ground squirrels.
So, if there is a pesky critter on this list damaging your property, crops or livestock, you can take care of it as long as you are the landowner or family member of the landowner or employed by the landowner. CPW officers will not respond to any calls regarding these species.
Now, if you don’t want to trap or euthanize these animals yourself, there are many pest control companies that will do it for you. But it will not be for free.
If you do trap any of these animals you must use live traps. Body gripping devices, foot holds and snare traps (killing traps or foot hold traps) are not allowed except for mice and rats. Most animals that you catch in a live trap cannot be relocated unless you obtain a relocation permit from CPW, and either must be released from the trap where it was placed or the animal must be euthanized. The only animals that may be relocated without a permit are tree squirrels, cottontail rabbits and raccoons. CPW must be notified before you relocate any animal; the relocation area must be suitable habitat for the animal; and you need to obtain permission to relocate the animal on said property. Tree squirrels and rabbits may be relocated up to 10 miles, but raccoons must be relocated within 2 miles from where they were trapped. (For regulation numbers and a handy fact sheet, here is a link https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/NuisanceWildlife.pdf)
So, what happens when you have an animal that is causing damage to your property that is not on this list? Then it is time to call CPW.
CPW officers can assist with these conflicts. I guarantee that we have seen many of these issues and will help come up with a solution to help.
It is important to note that when it comes to big game animals (deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bear and mountain lions), there is a very different set of rules.
And there’s no doubt many of these species can be pesky and cause issues on your property.
A bear may be raiding your chicken coop. A mountain lion may be threatening your goats. Maybe deer are eating your garden crops.
Please don’t take things into your own hands and get yourself in legal trouble. It’s really important you call CPW and let us help you resolve the problem.
It is really important to call CPW when the damage in question is to livestock or crops.
CPW does not restrict your ability to protect yourself or loved ones from personal harm caused by wildlife. If you do end up in that situation, take the necessary action. But then please call CPW as soon as possible after the incident.
If you are ever in doubt about a situation caused by wildlife on your property, you can always call the CPW office at 719-227-5200 during normal business hours, or State Patrol Dispatch at 719-544-2424, if it is after hours or an emergency.
In the coming months, I’ll share more of those stories as I write about wildlife issues in our community: Got a question, problem or column idea, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 719-227-5231.
I might even answer your question in a future installment of “Wildlife Matters.”