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Death of osprey chick a reminder to clean up litter, like fishing lines

CPW District Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington uses a lift provided by Indian Peaks Rental to clear hazards near an osprey nesting area.
Courtesy CPW

Last fall, Bob Garrett spotted an osprey chick that had gotten tangled in its nest near his house and died.

The young raptor had been caught in a string its parents had used for nesting. Garrett called Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but the agency didn’t have the right equipment to remove the chick’s body and the entanglement hazards in its nest.

“There was no way to get up there,” Garrett recalled. “I didn’t want to see that happen again.”

Garrett happens to be a general manager for Indian Peaks Rental in Tabernash, which rents tools and equipment — including lifts that can reach the 45 foot power pole supporting the dead osprey’s nest.

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On April 19, Garrett was able to bring a 60 foot lift to the nest site near the Lake Granby dam. Using the equipment, CPW and US Forest Service staff removed the dead chick and cleaned out that nest and a second platform at the Sunset Boat Ramp.

Garrett said COVID-19 restrictions made the nest cleanup a bit more complicated, but officials were eager to clear out the nests before the ospreys started laying eggs this year.

Wildlife officials use a lift lent by Indian Peaks Rental to remove a dead osprey chick and clean out two nesting platforms.
Courtesy CPW

The cleanup of the platforms unearthed a lot of litter collected by the birds. Wildlife officials found a dog leash in one of the nests, along with plenty of strings, fishing lines, fishing hooks and bits of plastic.

CPW is using the experience as a teachable moment, reminding everyone to clean up after themselves so that their trash doesn’t end up in an osprey’s nest. Randy Hampton, public information officer for CPW’s northwest region, explained that ospreys build large nests using sticks and anything else they find for padding.

An osprey’s diet mostly consists of fish, so they’re almost always near bodies of water like Lake Granby. That means a discarded fishing line is an easy-to-find — but dangerous — furnishing for a nest.

Hampton said what happened to the osprey chick isn’t a common occurrence, but it happens enough that CPW wants to warn people about it.

“Ultimately, it’s about being aware of the little things in our environment that can have a big impact in the environment of all kinds of animals,” Hampton said. “When we live in nature, especially when we live in the high country, we have to be really aware of what we do and how we live in those areas.”

Things like fishing poles, tackle, dog leashes, rope, bungee cords, flip flops, socks, underwear and more have been removed from nests over the years, CPW said.

Garrett hopes that more awareness can help keep the ospreys safe. The birds have started returning to the county to build nests and raise their young for the spring and summer, something Garrett has enjoyed watching since the once endangered bird species began their rehabilitation.

“I keep a pretty close eye on them, get to know them,” he added.

Just minutes after clearing the two nests Sunday, ospreys landed on both platforms. Wildlife officials were glad that the birds would now have safe nests for the season, thanks in part to Garrett and Indian Peaks Rental.

Osprey pairs will begin laying eggs soon, and Garrett thinks his pair might have already. He’s hopeful the efforts will lead to a more fortunate outcome for the offspring.

“The birds are in the nest, I think, they laid their eggs and they seem pretty happy,” Garrett said.

To report birds or other wildlife that appear entangled in debris, call CPW at 970-725-6200 or the US Forest Service at 970-887-4100.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to clarify that the osprey chick was already deceased when Bob Garrett contacted Colorado Parks and Wildlife.


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