2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • MANGLED ANTLERS ARE ALL THAT REMAIN OF BUCK

    Thu, January 24, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Wildlife officials tranquilized a large buck that had been living on a ledge of a retaining wall along Vindicator Drive in Rockrimmon and removed it on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. It was given a medical exam, treated with antibiotics for an infected injury to its leg, clipped of its antlers and relocated southeast of Colorado Springs. Courtesy Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.

    Readers this week were reporting the Rockrimmon buck with the mangled antlers, swollen leg and drooping ears was missing from his ledge at Vindicator Drive and Rockrimmon Boulevard.

    The buck first appeared before Christmas, obviously injured and suffering. It seemed to be trying to hide behind bushes on the ledge of a retaining wall beneath an apartment complex.

    In this Jan. 13, 2013, photo by Rockrimmon resident Sue Giesbrecht, a large buck with injuries including broken antlers, a swollen leg and drooping ears lived several weeks on a ledge of a retaining wall along Vindicator Drive in Rockrimmon. It is seen in this Jan. 13 photo. Parks and Wildlife officers tranquilized the deer and removed it on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, relocating it southeast of Colorado Springs.

    Its magnificent, oddly twisting antlers made it impossible to hide.

    Passersby easily spotted it at the busy intersection, prompting worried folks to feed it and call for action on its behalf.

    In the following weeks, I watched as crowds of onlookers gathered daily at the Safeway shopping center across the street. And I received regular updates from people who saw it wandering in nearby neighborhoods.

    Some even lashed out at me, declaring that by writing about the buck,  it’s blood would be on my hands if it died for some reason!

    Anyway, after the buck went missing over the weekend, I called Michael Seraphin at the state Division of Parks and Wildlife to see if  anyone had filed a “Missing John Doe” report. Or, in this case, John Deer.

    I was surprised at what I learned.

    The deer wasn’t missing, Seraphin said. It was captured by wildlife officers and removed Friday night.

    It seems as the deer napped on his ledge, it was deer-napped by wildlife officers who tranquilized it for safe transport.

    They took the deer to the agency’s regional office on Sinton Road where it was examined, treated for an infected wound to its leg, clipped of its antlers and put in a heated garage for the night.

    The Rockrimmon buck, in a Jan. 15, 2013, photo by Rockrimmon resident Sue Giesbrecht.

    “They gave him a good medical exam and determined he didn’t seem to have any broken bones,” Seraphin said. “He did have an injury to his leg that had a mild infection. So we gave him antibiotics.”

    Though the deer’s impressive antlers would have fallen off naturally in a few weeks, officers chose to cut them off to take the bull’s eye off the animal, allowing him to further heal in peace.

    “We removed the antlers so he doesn’t keep getting in fights with other deer,” he said.

    At dawn Saturday, the deer was re-assessed for any after-effects of the tranquilizer. Once it was deemed hang-over free, officers took it to an undisclosed open space southeast of Colorado Springs and released back into the wild.

    Actually, it’s in a far more wild environment than it had experienced on its Rockrimmon ledge.

    There, people were plying the deer with apples, cranberries, lettuce, grapes and tubs of water.

    “There was concern it was not getting the proper diet and becoming wholly dependent on people,” Seraphin told me. “For example, someone put hay up there on its ledge and other foods that aren’t normally part of its diet like grapes and lettuce. Deer can’t digest hay well.”

    In addition, folks were walking up to the animal — some with babies in their arms — to get a closer look at it.

    Wildlife officials were concerned that folks were putting themselves at risk of a close encounter with its antlers should the deer, estimated at 200 pounds and at six to eight years old, had  spooked for any reason.

    The Rockrimmon buck, in a Jan. 13, 2013, photo by Rockrimmon resident Sue Giesbrecht.

    The prospect of the buck bolting into traffic or whacking a child walking to school or even dying on the ledge in front of a crowd was especially troubling to officials.

    In the end, its growing celebrity status doomed its stay in Rockrimmon and led officials to risk tranquilizing it and removing the buck.

    “Everything went fine,” Seraphin said. “You never know how they’ll handle being tranquilized. It can be a difficult process. They can die from it.”

    Not this tough old buck. It woke up Saturday and was healthy enough for release.

    “We didn’t want to keep him too long,” Seraphin said. “We checked him at first light. He seemed alert. So we took him out and released him. The operation went smoothly.”

    So you folks who live and hike southeast of town, keep an eye out next fall for an old buck with a magnificent rack. It may have antlers twisting in all directions, even under its chin. I’ll be interested to hear how he’s doing!

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  • MAGNIFICENT BUCK A VICTIM OF LOVE

    Thu, January 10, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Just before Christmas, a buck with a large, magnificent set of unusual antlers showed up near the intersection of Rockrimmon Boulevard and Vindicator Drive looking pathetically underweight with obvious injuries, a noticeable limp, blood-stained fur and antlers and sagging ears.

    At the Safeway across the street, customers and employees shared their concerns for the buck. Some speculated he’d been hit by a car, noting the large knots on his legs. Others volunteered that they were taking cranberries and water to the buck.

    A few days later, I saw the buck again. Instead of limping along the sidewalk, he was resting on the ledge of a retaining wall, about five feet above the street. He was hidden among shrubs growing on the ledge. He barely moved as people walked right up to him. Next to him was a plastic tub of water left by a neighbor.

    In the meantime, concerned neighbors started calling the state Division of Parks and Wildlife office and its officers began making daily checks on the buck.

    Some asked if the buck could be caught and taken to a sanctuary for treatment.

    Others wondered if it could be moved to a more remote location, away from the busy intersection and the constant stream of turning cars and trucks around the shopping center and the foot traffic of children walking to Eagleview Middle School.

    A few even suggested the buck needs to be euthanized because it was obviously in pain.

    My wife and I have been keeping tabs on the buck. My son, Ben, reported watching from his school bus as people hand-feed apples to the buck.

    Peregrine resident Chris Duffey is among the worried neighbors.

    “He doesn’t look like he’s doing very well,” Duffey told me. “It’s frustrating as an animal lover to see that animal there suffering.”

    Duffey said it appears to her the buck was hit by a car or truck, noting the knots on his legs are the size of tennis balls.

    “I hate to see him suffer a slow death,” she said. “It seems inhumane.”

    So I called Michael Seraphin, spokesman for Parks and Wildlife, who confirmed his agency is monitoring the buck.

    Seraphin said wildlife agency experts believe the buck, most likely, is a victim of love.

    They suspect he is battered, bloodied and bruised after a vicious rutting season in which bucks fight each other for dominance and the right to mate.

    “After the rut, male deer often are in poor body condition,” Seraphin said. “They can appear weak and stressed.

    “They have been battling with other deer. Often they get so focused on their reproductive drive and the challenge for dominance that they don’t eat. This can really take a lot out of them, especially older bucks like this one.”

    An injured mule deer rests on a ledge of a retaining wall along Vindicator Drive near Rockrimmon Boulevard.

    Wildlife websites say bucks can shed 20 percent of their weight during the rut. Afterward, they will bed down for several days to recover. Sometimes bucks in rut will fight to the death.

    Other factors also may have contributed to the buck’s condition, Seraphin said. A car may have hit the deer. Or a predator such as a mountain lion or coyote could have attacked.

    “We’re hoping he’ll regain his strength and his health will improve,” Seraphin said. “But if he continues to go downhill, we’ll have to revisit the decision to euthanize it.”

    Seraphin said the ledge where he’s been resting is beneath a couple crapapple trees, which he’s been eating. And he said deer are pretty tough animals, noting a few three-legged deer can be spotted around the region.

    An injured buck mule deer rests on a ledge of a retaining wall beneath an apartment building along Vindicator Drive near Rockrimmon Boulevard. Above it, other deer graze on grass.

    But the buck’s magnificent antlers, and the attention of well-meaning strangers, might doom it.

    “Even though the rut is over, male deer will continue to jostle him as long as they have those antlers,” he said. “They will take advantage of his weakened condition.”

    Then there’s the problem of humans feeding the deer.

    “We’d ask people not to feed him,” Seraphin said. “It’s illegal to feed deer. And there’s a good reason. They can starve to death with a full stomach.”

    When deer deviate from their natural diet of grasses, shrubs, leaves and other vegetation, they can suffer fatal digestive problems.

    “It’s a difficult situation,” he said. “Everyone wants to help the deer. But the only choices are putting it down or letting it be and hoping it improves on its own.

    “I’m afraid time is not on the deer’s side  unless he makes a marked recovery soon. Each day that goes by, we’re getting closer and closer to taking some sort of action. We can’t leave the situation the way it is.”

    BEFORE

    The mule deer had a spectacular set of antlers when it was healthy before the fall rut as seen in this photo by Side Streets reader George Gibson.

    AFTER

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  • HOW MANY FENCES HAVE TO DIE?

    Wed, November 2, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 4 comments

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    Tire tracks and smashed fence slats . . . it's a familiar sight to Mitch Logue. He's experienced the same thing 13 times in the 15 years he's lived in his Rockrimmon home.

    A predawn wreck that destroyed part of Mitch Logue’s fence a few weeks ago turned out to be his lucky break.

    The young driver who turned part of Mitch’s privacy fence into toothpicks was the 13th motorist in 15 years to hit the fence.

    How is that lucky? 

    Mitch Logue's backyard resembles a haunted forest with trees leaning at ugly angles and missing bark due to 15 years of pounding from 13 cars that have crashed through his fence.

    It turns out 13 wrecks was enough to convince the city it was time to protect Logue and his next-door neighbor from the wild-eyed NASCAR wanna-bes who have crashed their cars into their backyard fences.

    Usually, they are turning at the T-shaped intersection of Vindicator Drive and Rockrimmon Boulevard.

    I’m guessing most were speeding, texting, cell-phoning their BFF, stuffing their pieholes, firing up a doobie or doing something more important than keeping both hands on the wheels and both eyes on the road.

    Longtime Side Streets readers — both of you — may recall I wrote about Mitch and his next-door neighbors, Donald and Colleen Kunecke, in 2009 after another spate of marauding, fence-smashing motorists.

    Mitch Logue has replaced a half dozen trees killed by cars crashing his fence. I call them Nature's Guardrails. But he's hoping the city will build a real guardrail to protect his yard.

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    In July 2009, Mitch had just spent $3,600 rebuilding his fence when a small SUV plowed into his yard, taking out a brand new fence post and a slew of slats.

    Things were quiet until this past June when a young girl missed the turn, hit the curb and landed against the fence. Mitch said he was able to make minor repairs at no cost.

    Then came a recent predawn visit from a fellow who blasted into the fence, smashing a dozen or so slats. He backed out, left Mitch a note offering to pay for the damage and drove home.

    Here's a look from FlashEarth.com at the intersection.

    “This is the first time I’ve had two in the same year,” Mitch said.

    It’s not just the fence Mitch is worried about.

    A sidewalk runs between his fence and the street and it is heavily used by kids going to nearby Eagleview Middle School as well as neighbors walking to the Safeway center.

    “Every one of the cars that has hit my fence had to cross that sidewalk,” he said. “It’s a real safety issue.”

    Here's how Mitch Logue's new fence looked in July 2009 after it was smashed.

    City traffic engineer Dave Krauth agrees. After I told Krauth on Monday of the latest two wrecks, he sent some his staff out to re-evaluate the intersection.

    By Wednesday afternoon, Krauth had a decision.

    “The good news is we’re going to install a guardrail,” Krauth said, adding that he hopes it can be squeezed between the curb and sidewalk.

     “But if we can’t fit it there, we’ll put it right against the fence.”

    Krauth said the guardrail would run 100 feet, protecting both Mitch and the Kunecke home.

    In the past, traffic engineers have rejected a guardrail because cars might plow straight into it, not glance off it at an angle.

    And engineers didn’t have statistics to support installing a guardrail because few of the wrecks were reported to police.

    But Krauth said he’s convinced by the anecdotal evidence offered by neighbors over the years.

    Mitch said he’d move his fence in a foot or so to make extra room for a guardrail, if it would help.

    “I’d really like people not to run through my fence anymore,” Mitch said. “It’s getting really expensive.”

    Once it is installed, as weather permits over the next couple months, Mitch might feel safe enough to actually use his backyard again and even let his granddaughter play there.

    “I can’t put anything back there like a playhouse,” Mitch said. “I can’t use my yard at all.”

     

    In June 2009, an SUV smashed through the fence of Mitch Logue's next-door neighbor, coming to rest against one of Nature's Guardrails.

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  • HOA BOARDS BETTER THINK TWICE BEFORE TOWING CARS

    Wed, January 6, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    South Face is an upper-middle-class neighborhood of about 250 houses built in Rockrimmon beginning in 1993. They are nice houses, multi-level with fancy street lights and well-kept landscaping. south-face-rock

     South Face sits on the north side of Vindicator Drive, across from Ute Valley Park.  

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    Folks there were surprised a month or so ago when a new sign appeared attached to a city traffic sign. Here’s the sign:

    south-face-sign-closeup

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The sign sure looks official.

    And it was attached to a city traffic sign at the entrance to the neighborhood. Check it out below:

    south-face-25-mph-1

    The signs were erected by the South Face Community Association board. The board is determined to enforce covenants that prohibit parking on city streets overnight. Cars must be in driveways. Or else.

    Some neighbors were shocked. Some called the Colorado Springs Police Department. Some called Side Streets.

    The common question: Can an HOA tow away a car parked legally on a public street?

    Neighboring Eagle’s Nest neighborhood has a similar warning attached to a stop sign:eagles-nest-sign-closeup

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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     If both neighborhoods are doing it, it must be legal . . . right?

     Actually . . . no.

    CSPD Sgt. Lonnie Spanswick, the parking enforcement guru, said police are the only agency authorized to tow cars from public streets. Absent a court order from a judge, any HOA board calling  a tow truck to enforce covenants about parking on city streets is asking for trouble.

    Specifically, they are asking for a criminal charge of motor vehicle theft.

    Spanswick said covenants are not law. And HOA boards are not police. They can NOT simply call a tow truck and haul off a car parked in violation of covenants.

    Attorney Lenard Rioth said South Face has not towed any cars and would not do so without a court order — a lengthy process in civil court.

    He said the signs were erected because some in the neighborhood simply won’t follow the rules they promised to honor when they bought their homes.

    Rioth said the streets are narrow, creating safety issues if they are lined with cars at night. They become difficult to plow in snowy weather.

    Then there’s the principle involved. Covenants are not dictated to residents. They are self-imposed. Why, Rioth asked, do people move into covenant-protected neighborhoods only to ignore the rules?

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  • TRAFFIC CONCERNS in Rockrimmon and Wagon Trails

    Sun, October 4, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    ============ UPDATE   BELOW –  UPDATE BELOW ============

    Remember the smashing fences in Rockrimmon? You know, the folks who live at the bottom of the hill where Vindicator Drive meets Rockrimmon Boulevard? They’ve lived with cars crashing into their yards for years.

    Below is a map from FlashEarth.com of the area:

    fenceflash

    Two families – Mitch Logue and Donald and Colleen Kunecke, wanted the city to install guardrails to prevent future incidents like this one below:

    fencewreck2

    I’ve written about it a couple times. Here is a link to a previous blog about the problem.

    Well the Colorado Springs traffic engineer, Dave Krauth, said the intersection won’t accomodate guard rails. But he’s interested in testing sophisticated new traffic sensors to see if he can stop some of the carnage.

    The sensors track cars entering an intersection as the traffic signal is about to change. Traffic engineers call this moment the “dilemma zone.”

     The sensors can delay the change to allow the cars to clear without stomping on their gas and plowing over the curb and into a fence and yard.

    There’s also news on another bottleneck in the city. This one is a two-lane stretch of Dublin Boulevard between Bridle Pass Drive and Powers Boulevard. Here’s a look from FlashEarth:

    dublinflashoverview

    Readers like Tim Little want to know why Dublin suddenly shrinks from four lanes to two and a stretch of pavement sits unfinished.

    It’s a twisted tale of land that is annexed vs. unincorporated land stuck in El Paso County.

    dublincitylimits

    It is further complicated by rules about when a develop must build infrastructure like roads, curbs and sidewalks.

    Krauth said the road will be widened as land is developed along the stretch. Already a short piece was widened but never attached to the intersection at Bridle Pass due to a property line issue.

    dublinflashcloseup

    The rest of the road won’t be widened until county land on the north side is developed and annexed into the city.

    As a result, motorists are stuck with roads that look like this view to the east:

    dublinroadclosed1

    And this view looking west:

    dublincurvewestb

    ================ NOW THE UPDATE ================

     

    I now have an answer to the mysterious disappearing pavement.

    dublinflashcloseup1

    The new black pavement was installed by the developer of a townhome project adjacent to Dublin Boulevard. However, it ends about 400 feet from the intersection to the west.

    Why didn’t the developer just finish the job?

    Tim Mitros of city engineering tells me the pavement ends at a property line. Developers are required to install infrastructure — sidewalks, curbs, gutters even roadway – adjacent to their projects. But not for a neighbor’s land.

    In the case above, the pavement ends at the property line of the next parcel and the remaining 400 feet will be installed if and when the adjacent land is developed.

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  • CAN ANYBODY OUT THERE DRIVE?

    Wed, July 15, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Mitch Logue was tired or looking at his patchwork wood privacy fence.

    Over the 10 years he has lived on Dillon Circle in the Tamarron neighborhood of Rockrimmon, he’s had to fix his fence frequently because of NASCAR wanna-bes who can’t keep their Goodyears on Rockrimmon Boulevard, which runs behind his house.

    So, about six weeks ago, Logue replaced the entire fence for $3,600.

    A week or so later, he was facing another patch job. For at least the sixth time in his memory, his fence was smashed by an out-of-control driver.

    rockrimmonfence2

    This time, it was a young girl in an SUV who told police she was forced off the road by another driver.

    The wreck left rubber on the road and curb, chewed up the concrete and left debris strewn on the sidewalk. Inside Logue’s yard were shattered wood slats.

    rockrimmonfence3

    Logue happens to live at the bottom of a hill where Vindicator Drive meets Rockrimmon. Here’s a look at the neighborhood from www.FlashEarth.com:

    loguefence

    It’s a busy intersection. Kids use the traffic signals and crosswalks to get to Eagleview Middle School up the hill and to the Safeway shopping center just catty-corner from Logue.

    Often, drivers come charging down the hill — dodging folks trying to turn into Safeway or the apartment complex across the curved street. They race to the intersection and fly around the left turn, two abreast, onto Rockrimmon. Unfortunately, they often miss the turn.

    When they do, they end up in the backyard of Logue or his next-door neighbors, Colleen and Donald Kunecke. I wrote and blogged about their frustrations in June. Check out the destruction the Kuneckes’ suffered on my blog.

    Traffic engineers are studying the intersection but are not keen on the idea of installing guardrails to protect the neighbors.

    Maybe Logue should invite them over for a picnic.

    In his backyard.

    Maybe, they can take their burgers and brats off the grille. And get a side of hot, buttered fender.

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