Basalt rancher drawn into challenge of trapping ban
A Basalt rancher has been drawn into a constitutional challenge of Amendment 14, the 1996 citizen’s initiative that banned certain methods of trapping in Colorado.
John Jacob “Jack” Gredig, a former Pitkin County road and bridge supervisor, received a summons on Aug. 4 after he turned himself in for setting four snares on his own sheep ranch on Emma Road in Basalt. Attempting to trap predators with such snares was made illegal by Amendment 14 except under certain circumstances.
Gredig’s case has become associated with a Saguache-based organization called Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund. One of the fund’s stated purposes is “to raise the money necessary to fund the litigation involved with overturning Amendment 14.” Gredig’s case is apparently one of four statewide being promoted by the fund.
In attempting to reach Gredig, The Aspen Times was referred by his daughter to his spokesperson – a representative for the Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund.
Gredig is being defended by a Grand Junction law firm. His legal defense in the case is to be paid for by the Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund. Gredig has no previous record of wildlife violations.
After losing several lambs to predators in May and June, Gredig, who raises Suffolk sheep for breeding stock, hired a professional trapper who set snares on his ranch. This is permitted under an exception in Amendment 14, said Colorado Division of Wildlife Officer Kevin Wright. If a landowner has a damage problem, Wright said, and other methods of preventing depredation are unsuccessful, the landowner can apply for permission to trap predators during an exemption period of 30 consecutive days.
Court documents indicate Gredig tried to deter predators by keeping several Akbash dogs and one guard burro and by checking on his flock daily.
After the trapper failed to catch any predators during the exception period, Gredig himself set four snares on his property. Documents indicate Gredig did so knowing it was in violation of the law. Wright said Gredig essentially turned himself in. “He called me and told me,” Wright said. The penalty for such a violation is a $40 fine, with possible points assessed against the offender’s hunting or fishing license.
Information from the Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund indicates the fund and the Colorado Trappers Association intend to defend those cited for violation of the anti-trapping law on constitutional grounds.
A defense document asserts Amendment 14 violates the Colorado Constitution, on the grounds that it is an illegal intrusion into administrative functions that are the sole prerogative of the executive branch of government.
If the defendant is acquitted on constitutional grounds at the county court level, the fund intends to appeal the legality of the law to the state supreme court. If the Gredig is convicted, the strategy will be to appeal the ruling through the normal appellate process, through the district court and Colorado Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.
Amendment 14 was passed by Colorado voters on Nov. 5, 1996 with 752,413 votes in favor of the measure and 641,733 against. It was approved by Pitkin County voters, 4,773 to 1,812.
The amendment prohibits leg-hold traps, body-gripping traps, poisons and snares, with some exceptions.
The next scheduled action on Gredig’s case is a status conference, on Nov. 2. A hearing scheduled for that date was canceled at the request of the prosecution.
Gredig was compensated in cash by the Colorado Division of Wildlife for the first lamb, which, it was determined, was killed by a bear. But because subsequent lambs were killed by other predators, determined by their method of killing to be either domestic dogs or coyotes, he was not compensated.
Todd Malmsbury, a public information specialist for the DOW in Denver, said the division compensates ranchers for losses to game species regulated by the division, whether its a loss of hay to elk or a loss of livestock to a mountain lion. But coyote losses are not compensated because the division does not protect coyotes in any way, he said.
There is no season on coyotes. They can be shot year-round by anyone with a general small-game license, and they can be shot at any time by a rancher or farmer on his or her own property without a license.
“That’s why there’s no compensation,” Malmsbury said.
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