Bears a big part of new manager’s job | PostIndependent.com
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Bears a big part of new manager’s job

Post Independent File Photo/Kelley CoxThis young cub spent time on Polo Road with its mom and twin last year. DOW's new Area 8 wildlife manager says that bear-human conflicts have become a major responsibility of the job.
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Perry Will is taking on, if not a bear of a job, then a job that has come to deal largely with bears.

Will replaced Pat Tucker as Area 8 wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Both agree that working on bear-human conflicts has become a central responsibility of the position ” especially when bears come out of hibernation.

“I think bears are just a big deal of what we spend our time with for almost five months out of the year,” said Tucker.



He and Will also agree that educating people is the key to reducing conflicts.

“Hopefully we can educate the bears, too ” maybe,” Will said.



Will began his new assignment May 1, after Tucker was named head of the DOW’s Habitat Partnership Program. Tucker had served almost seven years as area manager for Area 8, which includes Pitkin County, most of Eagle County and the eastern third of Garfield County.

Tucker said he was ready for a new challenge, although giving up the area manager job wasn’t easy, after moving from Durango to take it.

“It’s always difficult. You make friends and you get to a point where you’re pretty comfortable knowing what’s going on. You have some history so you know what went on before,” he said.

But he said it’s helpful that Will brings 25 years of familiarity with the region to his new job. Will ” recognizable to many by his handlebar mustache and cowboy hat ” spent those years as district wildlife manager for the Rifle South district. That’s in a different DOW area, but still in Garfield County.

Garfield County is home to Will, who lives outside New Castle. And he’s happy to return home after having left his Rifle job a year ago for a promotion to area manager in Montrose.

“When I went to Montrose I always hoped to get back here because I’m more familiar with it, more familiar with the issues,” Will said.

He called Area 8 “a good wildlife area.”

“That’s what I always wanted, was something with good game hunting, and this area offers that,” he said.

The area is home to a diversity of big game, along with prime fishing and recreational opportunities, said Will. He fishes a little himself but chiefly loves to hunt.

“It’s kind of a neat area for the kind of work we do,” he said.

It’s also a dream assignment for someone who grew up in southeast Colorado and knew from about seventh grade, after having met some game wardens, that that was the career for him.

The big reason was the desire to be outdoors. In that regard, Will admits his desk work is a bit of a change.

“But I’ve also enjoyed the challenges, and I’ve learned so much in a short period of time,” he said.

Dealing with conflicts involving not only bears but elk and other animals will be a major challenge because of the way Area 8 is changing.

“I guess the main thing is just the way the valley is growing ” development and how that affects wildlife. That’s a big portion of our job is just dealing with that,” he said.

Tucker said he would like to think the DOW has been getting on top of the local problem of bear conflicts during his time heading up Area 8.

“But when you look at the number of calls that we receive on a year-to-year basis and look at the type of advice we give out and the problems that people are calling about, we still haven’t hit the magic solution,” he said.

He said the message of how to reduce conflicts isn’t getting through to some people, “and the solutions aren’t that difficult.”

Will said bears have visited unusual locations such as Grand Junction in past years because of drought. By contrast, “we’re sitting in bear habitat here. It’s not like they’re coming out of bear habitat, we’re in it.”

The key is to reduce bear attractants that draw the animals to homes, he said.

Tucker will address human-wildlife conflicts in another way through his new job. The Habitat Partnership Program works to improve wildlife habitat and resolve issues involving private landowners.

Tucker’s new job is based out of Grand Junction. He and his wife are evaluating where to live; she works for Colorado Mountain College in Rifle.

Will and his wife, Susan, have been married 32 years and have two grown children.

He said he and other DOW employees are just trying to fulfill their mission of doing the best job they can for wildlife.

“I’m excited to be here, and this work’s always been my passion. I don’t see it changing, just the scenery changing a little bit for me.”

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

dwebb@postindependent.com


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