Colorado Parks and Wildlife has promoted Sean Shepherd to become the new area wildlife manager, replacing Jim Aragon after his retirement earlier this year.
Shepherd will cover Park, Chaffee and Fremont counties.
Shepherd started working for Colorado State Parks in 2000, before being hired by CPW as a region supervisor at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in 2005.
He was transferred to Summit County, although his wife and two children remained in Salida, until he returned to work out of the Salida CPW office in 2013.
“I first moved to Salida in 1995, where, like a lot of people, I worked as a river guide during the summer and at Monarch during the winter,” Shepherd said. “My father’s family is from here, so I used to come here all the time as a kid. I love the area.
“I’m very thankful that Jim is still here, that I can still talk to him. I was very lucky to work with him for eight years. I got to see how he approached problems. He left some pretty big shoes to fill, but I’m excited to do it.”
Shepherd said he also appreciated the support of his wife and family in taking over the job, since it isn’t unusual to be called out in the middle of the night.
A lot of what Shepherd and his team do is manage people.
“As more people show up on the landscape, we face more challenges,” Shepherd said. “It used to be during the spring, we’d see a lot of turkey hunters out there. Now, we see a lot more hikers out there than hunters. Everyone wants their own unique experience, but as more people go out into the wilderness, that becomes harder and harder.”
Some examples of the expanding public presence in the wilderness Shepherd spoke of are Frantz Lake and Sands Lake state wildlife areas.
Those spots are popular with hikers, bikers and paddleboarders, but because they are state wildlife areas, visitors are required to have either a hunting or fishing license or a state wildlife area access pass.
“Since COVID-19, we’ve seen lots more recreation in these areas, and new kinds of recreation, like paddleboarding and ice skating,” Shepherd said. “We’ve had recent discussions with the city about possibly taking over the two areas and the trails connecting them, but I’m not sure what it might look like. There are still places where people can hunt in those areas.”
Another local topic Shepherd said he deals with is wildlife within Salida city limits, specifically bears and deer.
“We’ve looked at options, such as hunting, as a pruning tool, but we don’t see a future in that,” Shepherd said. “If there was an easy solution, we would have used it already. I’ve had some people say they want the deer, or even more deer; others call me and want to get rid of all the deer. I don’t think there is a consensus on dealing with them.”
Shepherd said trapping and relocation doesn’t work, as the deer find their way back to town or are hit crossing U.S. 50, U.S. 285 or other roads.
“Birth control on deer is a very ethical issue to address,” Shepherd said. “We would need a consensus of all stakeholders, and I don’t see that happening.”
In the case of dealing with bears in town, Shepherd said there is a lot of educational material on the CPW website, https://cpw.state.co.us.
“Just use common sense,” Shepherd said. “Keep calm, bring in bird feeders, put out trash on the day of the pickup. This year, we had really good weather for their forage, so hopefully the good food production will keep them out of town.”