DENVER – Three Colorado agencies are investigating and changes are already being made after a Contact7 investigation into how and why a slew of animal carcasses ended up dumped just hundreds of feet from a campsite west of Winter Park and in a ravine the feeds to the Colorado River.
Sean Jones got ahold of Contact7 Investigates after stumbling upon the pile of carcasses while on a hike with his girlfriend down a dirt road off Highway 40 about half an hour west of Winter Park.
Just on the other side of a hedgerow, the two discovered bones, fur and several dozen animal carcasses in a ravine that sits just upstream from the Colorado River and about 600 feet from a designated campsite.
“It’s a legitimate campground, so a kid potentially wandering up there and seeing that kind of stuff, coming up on it … there’s definitely some health risk there,” Jones said.
The risk is legitimate, Contact7 Investigates found after setting up motion-activated trail cameras at the site for three days. The cameras captured two people stopping next to the site in an SUV and snapping pictures on one occasion, and on two others, captured coyotes at the site scavenging.
J.T. Romatzke, the northwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, says he hasn’t seen something like the carcass pile in nearly 20 years on the job and said, when shown photos of the site, that the photos “doesn’t really look like the image I expect of our agency.”
Romatzke said that Parks and Wildlife crews likely are responsible for the carcass pile, which he said was probably roadkill. He also acknowledged that the dumping could have potentially violated the law.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s absolutely a mistake, or potentially an oversight,” Romatzke said. “And you know, whether it’s an oversight or not, there’s no excuse there. We need to be held to that standard of what the public expects from us.”
Three separate investigations are now underway involving Parks and Wildlife, the state Department of Public Health and Environment and the state attorney general’s office.
CPW has already put a fence in place to prevent any more dead animals from being disposed of at the location, and the CDPHE is considering doing soil and water testing at the site.
Romatzke says CPW also plans to conduct a statewide review of how it disposes of roadkill and other dead wildlife and has asked the CDPHE for suggestions on how to properly dispose of such animals and how to properly clean up the current dump site.
“I want to take ownership of this and I’m going to make it right,” Romatzke said.