NEW CASTLE, Colorado - Several area residents are worried that their deceased pets are about to have their final resting places disturbed by gas drillers working south of New Castle.
But a state official on Friday pledged to work with the distressed pet lovers and the gas company involved to resolve the situation.
"We definitely want to be respectful to the owners of the pets," said J.T. Romatzke, area wildlife manager for the land in question.
The issue arose last week, when one of the pet owners was alerted that a gas rig was about to go up in the same place where she and others have buried their pets.
"I don't have a problem with drilling, not at all," stressed Sherry Fairchild, a resident of Apple Tree Park, who was told recently that the DeJour Energy Co. will start drilling soon in the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area.
"But," she continued, "they could take into consideration, I mean, these are our family members ... our loved ones."
Fairchild, who last year buried her 7-year-old golden Lab, Buster, in the area in question, told the Post Independent that she and others have been burying their deceased pets in the same spot for a number of years, apparently with the tacit approval of the officials in charge.
On Aug. 22, she said, a neighbor who has a pet buried in the same woods told her about the drilling plans.
"That upset me no end," she said, explaining that there are perhaps a half-dozen pet graves in the same general area where the drilling pad is to be placed.
Asked whether such a practice is legal, she responded, "I'm assuming that it is. The game warden knows that they're there."
But Perry Will, a longtime local official with the state Division of Wildlife, said it is not legal, although officials were aware of the existence of the graves.
"No one ever knew who was doing it," he said. "They never, ever had permission to do that. And when something like this comes along, that's the chance you take."
Still, Will said, "I understand her concerns. I've had pets that meant a lot to me, too."
He said the company is aware of the situation, and as far as he knows, "They'll be sensitive to it. They don't want a black eye over that."
Romatzke, too, said the pet owners need not be worried unduly.
The company's president and chief operating officer, Harrison Blacker, reached during his day off, confirmed on Friday that the company is about to start drilling operations in the area.
He declined further questioning but promised to address the matter on Aug. 30, when he will be back at work.