Deer don’t mind hanging around the roundabout
The construction of the roundabout is costing more than a few bucks – it has apparently cost a few bucks their favorite place to take a nap.
In recent years, several mule deer have made a habit of bedding down in and near the small grove of cottonwood trees at the intersection of Maroon Creek Road and Highway 82. When many of the trees were cut down a few weeks ago to make way for the roundabout, the bucks apparently stuck around, and can still be seen snoozing in the early mornings and afternoons among the few remaining trees.
Pitkin County Wildlife Biologist Jonathan Lowsky said the deer, though they appear to be taking things in stride, are a bit stressed by the construction. The area cut away from the Moore Open Space property isn’t huge, Lowsky said, but it’s typical of the habitat loss that is causing deer populations to drop across the western United States.
Buddy Sorensen, a supervisor for Gould Construction, the contractor on the roundabout construction job, said he and his co-workers often see bucks on the southwest side of Highway 82, along the edge of the Moore Open Space land.
“They’re not spooked or nothin’,” Sorensen said. He said the bucks now often bed down in the afternoon in a grove of cottonwoods just down the road from the site where the land has been cleared, within sight of the highway.
“When we were doing the slip lane, we thought they’d get up and run,” Sorensen said. He said he thought the noise of the trucks would be too much for the animals. “But they just went over there and bedded down,” he said, indicating the remaining cottonwoods.
The deer can often be seen on a brush-covered hill along the highway in the mornings, but they favor the cottonwoods in the afternoons, Sorensen said. At least three of the bucks are mature, with four-point antlers, he said, while others are smaller.
He said he’s seen as many as seven bucks, and at other times has observed a doe with two spotted fawns near the construction area.
Kim Morris, a flagger on the site, said she saw a doe with a fawn recently, as well. Flagger Donna Gocha said she often saw a group of four does near the construction site in June.
Lowsky said he has seen a four-point buck in full velvet there in recent days. He said one group of deer lives pretty much full-time on the Moore Open Space, while others travel up and down the Maroon Creek Valley.
While elk are found more often in forests and meadows, mule deer depend on sage shrublands like the Moore Open Space property, Lowsky said. A considerable amount of shrubland and streamside habitat used by deer has been lost to development in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said.
Reacting to the decline in deer populations, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has limited the number of deer licenses issued this year as a necessary step in the restoration of Colorado’s deer herds.
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