There are miles of barbed wire fence strung out across Summit County and while it worked to contain sheep and cattle 50 years ago, it’s become a problem for wildlife today.
That’s why as one of the largest landowners in Summit County, Denver Water took initiative to remove more than 1 mile of barbed wire fence around Dillon Reservoir that posed significant dangers to elk, deer and moose.
“We identified several areas on our property where we have barbed wire fences that we don’t need,” said John Blackwell, Dillon Reservoir supervisor. “The fences are dangerous for the animals and difficult for us to maintain.”
Denver Water partnered with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to remove several sections of fence around the utility’s Dillon Reservoir headquarters as well as sections around the Snake and Blue river inlets.
“We heard that animals can get caught in the barbed wire, so it’s very satisfying to know that our work here may save lives,” said Jessica Heumann, a crewmember with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
Most of the barbed wire fencing around Denver Water’s Dillon Reservoir headquarters was installed by ranchers in the mid-1900s for livestock grazing, and was never taken down when land uses changed throughout the county.
“We’ve been working with Denver Water, the USDA Forest Service and other landowners in Summit County and across the state to remove barbed wire fences,” said Elissa Slezak, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Wild animals have a hard time seeing the wires, especially at night, and can become entangled in the barbs and often perish as a result.”
Denver Water also replaced a stretch of barbed wire fence with wildlife-friendly fencing at its Williams Fork facility in Grand County.
“We’ll continue to evaluate the fencing around Dillon Reservoir and other Denver Water reservoirs to see if it should be removed,” Blackwell said. “We’re not just stewards of the water, we’re also stewards of the land, so it’s important to take steps to protect wildlife that roam through our property.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages landowners across the state to review their fencing needs and offers an informational guide on different types of fencing available that is wildlife-friendly.