Wildlife Services could provide help with nuisance wildlife in county

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MEEKER | Meeker’s trustees heard a presentation regarding nuisance wildlife and predator control efforts at the regular meeting Tuesday. County Commissioner Si Woodruff introduced David Moreno, the district superintendent for USDA Wildlife Services, and two Wildlife Services specialists: Justin Ewing who is contracted with Rio Blanco County Woolgrowers for predator control, and Tad Lee, who held the same position for Routt and Moffat County Woolgrowers until they decided to end the contract. That leaves a partially federally-funded position available for Rio Blanco County, if funding can be found.

“We have an opportunity,” Woodruff said. “The feds have $34,000 to help this county hire Wildlife Services to deal with animals—vultures, ground squirrels, ravens.” The cost for the position annually is $70,000.

“Speaking with Si and some of the local producers in the county, it seems like there’s an opportunity to assist all the county residents. We can manage a variety of species,” Moreno said.

The specialist could assist animal control officers in both towns with problem wildlife like skunks, raccoons, northern flickers, bats and more. “We can go specifically go out and target animals that are causing damage.”

In Craig, for example, the specialists worked with the town to relocate a flock of turkey vultures that were causing property damage and safety issues.

RBC Public Health Director Julie Drake said she would be in support of funding the position as a way to reduce risks to public health.

“We do not have terrestrial rabies in our county or on the Western Slope yet. We do have rabies in bats, but not in on-the-ground animals. Post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies is $5-8,000, and is not covered by insurance,” she said, by way of example.

“We (the county) might potentially finance it for one year. We might be coming back to you in a year during your budget session to see if it was worth it.”

In other business, the board:

Awarded the bid for a new street sweeper to Faris Machinery for $207,101. It was the sole bid, but was within budget.

– Awarded the bid for a new salt/sand spreader to Auto Truck Group for $14,625. It was the low bid out of two that met specifications.

– Adopting the 2018 Board of Trustees Strategic Plan, establishing current priorities and projects.

– Renewed the Ute Park Lease Agreement with Smith Ranches with some changes.

– Renewed the hotel/restaurant liquor license for Holliday’s.