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Deer carcass highlights Cedaredge dilemma

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Last Friday night, a car struck a deer on Main Street in Cedaredge. The vehicle moved on and the deer -- a young doe -- died in the gutter. Over the weekend town police were summoned and the public works department was consulted but the dead deer remained in the gutter. On Monday, when the town hall opened, a handful of residents stopped by and others telephoned on the assumption that the town would initiate a procedure to remove the carcass. This story might have ended here except for one detail: the Town of Cedaredge does not remove dead animal carcasses from urban streets.

Cedaredge is no stranger to issues involving urban deer. It is not uncommon at dusk to see dozens of deer on town streets and sidewalks and even more in the town's many open spaces. The town is located at the foot of Grand Mesa -- one of the largest flat-topped mountains in the world and home to an abundant population of wildlife including sizeable herds of mule deer. As the weather cools, elk and deer migrate to lower elevations. Elk tend to steer clear of people and return to the mesa when the weather warms but many deer have adapted to the town environment and can be found in Cedaredge year-round. Estimates of the number of town deer are difficult to obtain but residents agree there are far too many. And, as more animals become accustomed to the urban environment, the potential for accidental or natural deaths increases.

Over the years Cedaredge has consistently informed residents of its policy regarding dead animals. In September 2015, the town included the following statement in a newsletter mailed out to all residents: "The Town of Cedaredge is located in an area where wild animals roam free and domestic pets wander. We all hate to see our furry friends dead along the highway or succumbed to old age in our back yard. Decaying dead animals can be a health hazard. The Town of Cedaredge does not have the resources to handle dead animals. Local solid waste disposal businesses have the resources and are in business to assist with dead animals. Look in the yellow pages or call town hall for solid waste disposal business telephone numbers. The vendor will likely charge for the service. Individuals can transport dead animals to Adobe Buttes Landfill (call first 835-7999) at 12211 Trap Club Road, south of Cedaredge for a small fee. A third option is burial. Burial of dead animals is not currently regulated by the town. In unincorporated Delta County one or two animals can be buried on property."

Problems related to the town's urban deer population were also discussed in April 2017 when Cedaredge hosted a presentation by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (DPW). CPW representatives stressed that deer born in town tend to stay in town and that an urban diet is not suitable for wildlife. Town residents were cautioned not to feed deer and a wide-ranging discussion ensued during which various solutions were proposed to deal with the increasing number of deer. A story on the meeting was published in the April 18, 2017, edition of the DCI and the article closed with this statement of town policy: "Residents with a dead deer in their yards should call (a commercial trash hauler) and the animal will be removed for a charge."

Despite the town's efforts to inform residents of their policy, residents who reported last week's dead deer were surprised to learn that Cedaredge did not offer a removal service. Ultimately, two Main Street residents followed the town's instructions, telephoned a commercial trash hauler, and split the $25.00 hauling fee. A trash truck arrived within a half-hour, loaded the deer carcass, and hauled it away. By the time Cedaredge residents banded together to deal with the situation, the deer carcass had been decomposing next to a public sidewalk for 60 hours.

Had the deer died in neighboring communities, the story would have been different. A survey conducted last week found that Delta, Hotchkiss, Olathe Orchard City, Montrose, and Paonia will routinely pick up a dead deer carcass in city/town limits. Bill Chick, public works supervisor with the City of Delta, reported that animal carcasses are picked up promptly. In Hotchkiss, town Marshal Dan Miller confirmed that "public works picks up carcasses." Olathe town administrator Patty Gabriel indicated that the town has not had a request to pick up a wildlife carcass but its public works department is prepared to do so. According to town cdministrator Melissa Oelke, Orchard City -- which incorporates Austin, Cory, Eckert and adjacent areas -- "does not have a formal policy on removal of deal animals. The road department will remove any dead animal on town roads to prevent a traffic hazard." Mike Duncan, director of animal services for the City of Montrose Police Department, indicated that "animal control removes animal carcasses from city streets." And Paonia town clerk Corinne Ferguson confirmed that "the town public works department will pick up dead animals in the public right-of-way within town limits."

Of the area communities surveyed, Cedaredge alone does not routinely remove animal carcasses, leaving residents to act on their own to deal with dead deer on public or private property. Responding to community concerns, Kathleen Ann Sickles, Cedaredge town administrator, wrote that the town has "met with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife numerous times just in the past year about the deer population and the board of trustees have considered other options during budget season for dead animal pickup."

Residents are encouraged to participate in upcoming town meetings. The deer issue is on the agenda for the Cedaredge Town Council meeting Thursday, Nov. 16. The regular meeting begins at 5 p.m.; a budget hearing takes place at 6 p.m. Both meetings take place at the Cedaredge Civic Center at 140-NW 2nd Street.

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