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Brainard Lake turning into a multi-recreation success story thanks to volunteer group
CPW News Release
BOULDER – Recreational user groups don’t always get along, but an informational program developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff and volunteers has helped to get recreationists to see eye-to-eye at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Brainard Lake, 20 miles west of Boulder in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, offers one of the state’s premier venues for all sorts of recreation activities. People go there for great hiking, fishing, hunting, photography and more. But it’s the wildlife viewing – with moose as the main attraction – that really sets Brainard Lake apart as one of Colorado’s most unique natural areas. The moose population in the area is very healthy and people who go there get to see these magnificent animals nearly every time they visit.

Sometimes, however, those different recreation groups don’t mingle well, but thanks to a concentrated effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and a group of dedicated volunteers, conflicts between them have diminished.

In October of 2015, issues arose from wildlife watchers and hunters crossing paths. A hunter legally harvested a moose in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, but it occurred with a group of wildlife watchers in the area at the same time. A similar incident was reported in 2014.

After those incidents, CPW, charged with providing enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities, stepped in to help. Colorado is a multi-recreational state and no one’s recreation trumps another.

Initially, CPW and its commission enacted a regulation barring moose hunting for a quarter-mile extending out from the high water mark of Brainard Lake – prime real estate for moose viewing and photography. Since that ban, CPW has received no reported kills in the restricted area.

But there was a bigger effort for helping with the co-mingling of the various groups, and that is where the volunteer group comes in.

Lori Morgan, volunteer coordinator for CPW’s northeast region, formed a volunteer group in 2016 to help educate the visitors coming into the Brainard area on its assortment of users.

“We have volunteers going up to help communicate valuable information to visitors regarding the importance of hunting and managing wildlife, local hunting rules and regulations, how to safely recreate in moose country, moose biology and behavior, responsible wildlife viewing and sharing the forest with the diverse users in the area,” Morgan said.

Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers working with the folks who travel from all over to visit the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, there was no reported conflicts between hunters or wildlife watchers and photographers in 2017.

Tom Balue, who has been in the volunteer program since its inception, said that they deal with everything from people angry that moose hunting takes place to people who are interested in learning about moose in the area to people walking around with their dogs off of a leash.

“The first year I had a gal who came up to me and she had her agenda and she said you guys are killing all the moose,” Balue said, who estimated he talks to 50 to 75 people a day. “I just calmly explained that there was only two licenses, now this year I’ll relay the new license numbers, but that year there were only two and they were both archery. This is a managed area for moose and you explain that to them.”

The volunteers say one of the biggest impacts they make is educating the visitors on the importance of keeping their pets safe. By keeping their dog on a leash it helps prevent it from sneaking up on a moose, having that moose chase it and the dog running back to its owner with an angry moose on its tail.

“I’ve had good success with people saying, ‘Well, I didn’t realize that.’ ” Balue said. “For most people it is like kids, your dogs are like children, if you want to keep them safe, get them on a leash.”

Last Saturday, Jennifer Standlee, CPW northeast region education coordinator, held a refresher training with the volunteer group and reinforced the mission of the importance to get out and educate the public on habituating ahead of the 2018 hunting season.

While common today, the moose was quite rare in Colorado throughout most of the 20th century. Now, Colorado is home to more than 3,000 moose and boasts one of the fastest growing populations in the lower 48 states.

Thanks to an ambitious transplant program from Utah and Wyoming from the 1970s through the early 2000s, CPW re-established moose throughout Colorado’s mountain parks.

“Everyone values wildlife for different reasons,” said Shannon Schaller, wildlife biologist with CPW. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages Colorado's wildlife to sustain its populations for residents and visitors. Management of wildlife includes harvest strategies to help maintain healthy wildlife populations and habitat so that we have species like moose into the future.”

In the 2018 moose hunting license draw, CPW received a total of 72,808 applications and only 449 moose tags were awarded. Only 15 of those awarded are in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area (four bull tags and 11 cow tags – two on the northern side of the lake in GMU 20 and nine on the south in GMU 29).

The season dates for moose hunting are Sept. 8-23 for archery, Sept. 8-16 for muzzleloader and Oct. 1-14 for rifles.