Wildlife sanctuary OK with new rules | AspenTimes.com

Wildlife sanctuary OK with new rules

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SILT ” Proposed new state rules that have concerned major wildlife sanctuaries should not be a problem for a Silt-area facility, its operator said Monday.

Some sanctuaries worry whether they can meet the bonding obligations to cover expenses arising if they closed. But Nanci Limbach, of the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation near Silt, said most of her facility’s operations wouldn’t be affected because she doesn’t do much sanctuary work.

Limbach also said her center has a contingency plan that would go into effect if it closed and would use foundation money to pay for her animals’ care. Even if the foundation had no money, the animals would remain the responsibility of the center’s board of directors, she said.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has proposed that sanctuaries that are home to wild animals in the bear, cat and dog families form a closure plan and obtain the bonding to pay for its implementation. The DOW proposed the plan out of concerns about what would happen if a facility were abandoned.

“We were asked that question last summer and we didn’t really have a good answer,” said Tony Gurzick, assistant regional manager for the DOW’s Southwest Region.

It’s hard to find facilities willing to take animals such as lions, bears and wolves, Gurzick said. He said the goal is to provide a way to pay for care or euthanization of such animals without it costing sportsmen’s dollars, which fund the DOW’s operations.

Because of sanctuaries’ concerns about proposed financial requirements, the Colorado Wildlife Commission asked that the DOW work with the organizations to further refine the DOW proposal. Gurzick said the commission is scheduled to reconsider the matter at its July meeting.

Limbach said she obtained a commercial park license because the DOW sent her a captive-bred mountain lion that couldn’t be returned to the wild. She now has two foxes, two lions and three bobcats that can’t be rehabilitated and are used for education purposes, she said.

She said sanctuaries have been worried about a possible $100,000 bonding requirement, but that would be for centers with more than 50 animals.

“From what I’ve heard, we probably won’t be as affected,” she said.

Much of her center’s work involves rehabilitation of wild animals for release back into the wild. Limbach said the DOW doesn’t worry much about what would happen to such animals if a center closes, “because most of them are ones that are going to get turned loose anyway.”

While unaffected by the sanctuary proposal, many wildlife rehab center operators are perturbed by the DOW on another matter, Limbach said. The DOW never has reimbursed them for their operations, and yet has turned around and begun funding and operating its own rehab center near Monte Vista.

“That really upset a lot of rehabilitators and a lot of them just quit rehabilitation,” Limbach said.

Gurzick and Limbach both said the DOW generally deals with animals more on a population-wide level rather than an individual one. Limbach said rehab centers exist largely because of a desire by the public to have places to take animals in need of rehabilitation.

Gurzick said the DOW had been using what had been a private facility for work related to its lynx reintroduction, and the operator died. The state legislature authorized the facility’s purchase for species conservation work and some rehabilitation.

He said the facility is used for handling animals such as bears and lions that few rehab centers – Limbach’s being one of the exceptions – are equipped to handle. Such animals also are among the few species where the fate of individuals can have population-scale impacts, he said.

Limbach said she likes the idea of volunteer rehab centers being committed to their work for the love of animals rather than for money. But she said if the DOW is going to fund its own center, it also should help cover some of the expenses that other centers incur.

Limbach said local DOW officials have been supportive of her facility over the years in other ways, such as providing labor to help build cages and doing public education programs there.

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