Last month, eight incredible Defenders of Wildlife volunteers joined me and wildlife biologists from Boulder County Parks and Open Space to work on two fencing projects to help protect an important prairie dog colony and one of Boulder County’s few osprey nests.
First, our volunteers helped attach a barrier fence to an existing barbed wire fence at Rabbit Mountain Open Space to prevent prairie dogs from expanding their colony into neighboring private property where the owner did not want them on his land. One of the greatest obstacles to prairie dog recovery has been that when they take up residence on private land where they aren’t wanted, people often poison or shoot them. That’s why projects like this are so important. The barrier fence we put up created a 3-foot “apron” where the ground and the fencing met to deter the prairie dogs from burrowing under the fence. The top part of the barrier fence is loose and flaps down, making it challenging for prairie dogs to climb over the fence. It is important to Boulder County and other wildlife enthusiasts that this particular population remains in a prairie dog-friendly area, as they are a vital part of the local ecosystem, which includes a nearby golden eagle nest.
Once the barrier fence was finished, the group headed over to Lagerman Reservoir, another open space property, to help build a small log fence to protect habitat for several special status species protected by the county, including the Northern harrier and the burrowing owl. Additionally, this fence will protect an osprey nesting site and shorebirds habitat from disturbances by humans.
The western side of the reservoir is closed to hikers. However, the southern barrier was very minimal, and visitors often ignored it and continued to walk though important wildlife and nesting habitat. For the last six years, Boulder County biologists have wanted to build something more substantial to protect habitat for protected species and the new fence that we built will definitely do just that! In fact, the volunteers were able to see their hard work pay off when they observed a visitor walk up to the new fence and then turn around, staying on the open part of the trail. Success!
Thanks again to our fantastic group of Defenders volunteers for helping to protect Colorado’s wildlife!
Caitlin Balch-Burnett is the Colorado Outreach Representative for Defenders of Wildlife