Hello Teller County!
Let me introduce myself: My name is Travis Sauder and I am the new CPW Wildlife Officer for the region.
As my colleague Tim Kroening mentioned in his last “Wild About Teller” column, he has accepted a promotion which opened the door for me to move to this incredible place.
But I don’t consider myself Tim’s replacement, because no one could replace him. As many of you no doubt know, Tim is a consummate wildlife officer. I worked with him for a time and I saw it for myself. He is fair, friendly and only wants what’s best for Colorado’s wildlife, hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists.
I am following in some big footsteps.
Let me tell you a little about myself.
I am a Colorado native who grew up enjoying the outdoors every chance I had. As a wildlife officer, I guess I’m a bit of a late bloomer. After working as a meat cutter for 12 years, I went back to college and completed a degree in general biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and began pursuing a career with CPW.
My first year or so was spent training and on a temporary assignment in Colorado Springs, where I met Tim and the rest of the eight officers on the team that covers everything from Teller County to Kansas.
In April 2018, I was assigned to the Huerfano County district serving the communities of Walsenburg, La Veta and Cuchara. In Huerfano County, I experienced many of the same types of calls for service as Tim responded to in Teller.
My phone rang day and night, and I never knew what to expect. Sometimes it was a bear in a trash can, a mountain lion attacking livestock or a deer tangled in a tomato cage and unable to get free.
You may have heard about the “bratwurst mountain lion kitten” found along the highway in La Veta. Someone saw the kitten in the snow, took it home and fed it bratwurst, causing it to become quite sick. That call came to me. I rescued the kitten and took it to a rehabilitation facility in Wetmore.
Like Tim, I also responded to wildfires in the region and went out in blizzards as a first-responder to rescue humans trapped in the storms.
In Huerfano County, I definitely learned a lot and fell in love with the people and the wildlife that the Southeast Region of Colorado has to offer. But as much as I grew to love Huerfano County, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to move to Teller when this opportunity arose.
In many ways, this is a bit of a homecoming, as I grew up in the Colorado Springs and Falcon areas and spent much of my youth hunting and fishing throughout Teller County. Even better, my wife and I have extended family nearby.
When I asked Tim about what he loves about Teller County, he described many of the things I love about Huerfano County: abundant wildlife; a small, tight knit community; and, of course, beautiful scenery.
As for the work here, I can’t wait to get busy trying proactively to solve human-bear conflicts. Being Bear Aware isn’t just part of my job, it’s my passion. Again, I’m lucky to be following Tim because he has developed a dedicated Bear Aware team. I can’t wait to meet them all and get to work.
The large urban deer population in Teller is nothing new to me, either. La Veta had a similar dense population. I look forward to tackling this challenge, working with various stakeholders to make sure we have deer around in the future to enjoy, but also that those deer are healthy and in balance with what the habitat can support.
Lastly, but certainly not least, I will make it a priority to work with landowners to preserve and improve habitat, gaining access for hunters and helping steward the wildlife resources that we all enjoy.
Tim mentioned in his article about being nervous following a legendary Wildlife Officer like Tonya Sharp. I have the same apprehensions, knowing how well Tim was loved and respected in this community.
It is my goal to carry on their legacy and treat everyone with respect and work collaboratively to help protect and enhance the incredible wildlife and habitat I am discovering here in Teller. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with ideas and suggestions on how to do that.
I look forward to this monthly discussion where I can share what is happening in the wild world around us. Feel free to stop me and introduce yourself if you see me in the coffee shop, grocery store or out in the woods or on the lake. I look forward to meeting you.
Got a question, problem or column idea, please call me at 719-227-5281.
I might even answer your question in a future installment of “Wild About Teller.”
Travis Sauder is a district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Teller County.