David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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The Population Explosion (1997)


In 1859, when only Alonzo Allen and the Arapahos knew our valley, the place abounded with mammalian species. Deer, elk, beaver, grizzly and brown bears, bighorn sheep, marmots, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, porcupine, bobcats, lions, wolves, coyotes, foxes, weasels, rabbits and many lesser rodents, were all here in great numbers.

But when Man came to the valley Bambi and all his forest cousins began to diminish in numbers until, by the 1970s, a sighting of most of these animals was rare or nonexistent. And yet, within a 24 hour period last summer, I saw near my home a bear, three elk and two mule deer, a marmot (which I’d not seen for many years) and a very healthy coyote. One June evening last year  Don and Betty Ann Newton and I enjoyed the dusk, sharing it with five bull elk who had chosen their yard for a nap.

Faith Gillespie, who lives on Big Owl Hill, reported seeing a mountain lion, and she’s not alone, several others have confirmed that the lions are back.

So what’s going on? Why has there been a resurgence in these populations in the past few years, and will it continue in the face of more people, more houses, more of everything we do that ought to discourage this trend?

I spoke to Dick Coe, one of RMNP’s top naturalists. He pointed to the burgeoning elk population in Estes Park as a harbinger of the future. “Along Highway 7 in Estes Park, we now need not only a sign with a jumping deer, but a blinking yellow light, too. That’s how bad the hazard is, to both the elk and people.”

And why is the mammal population exploding? Nobody knows for sure. It may be in spite of people, or it may be because of us. More strict hunting regulations and protection of predators has been a factor, although that should have reduced the population of the hunted animals. Instead, those populations have grown. In the case of the elk and bighorn sheep, their populations have grown to the point that disease is now taking a toll as nature seeks to stabilize those herds.

In our valley, and particularly the portion in Boulder County, the more strictly enforced rules about dogs has certainly played a part. In the late 60s packs of dogs roamed at will and created havoc in the wildlife population. Today, any dog or cat running loose has a significant chance of becoming part of the food chain.

So is this a trend or is this boom headed for a bust? Again, the naturalists’ crystal balls are cloudy. Most of us believe we know, precisely, why the animals are back in such numbers, and we are probably wrong; the ways of nature are both mysterious and complex. All of life, as we know, has cycles, and this is certainly one of them. Whether it’s a long or short cycle is the question we can’t answer, but it’s worth considering that most archaeologists, paleontologists, zoologists and biologists agree that the full cycle for mammals on this planet has been about a million years, on the average, from the time of flourishing to extinction. Lower forms last longer, some much longer. So we still have some time left, at least statistically, as we continue to adapt, barring either a cataclysm of the sort that wiped out the dinosaurs, or some disaster we create for ourselves. Within that million years or so there are many ups and downs as we adapt to our environment, doing the best we can to flourish and avoid extinction, which is, nevertheless, if we believe the fossil record, inevitable. Meanwhile, we pretty much just do the best we can, and that is probably what is happening with our valley mammals today. Clearly, we should do what we can to prolong the cycle and hope that we can all live together, in peace.




© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner

Allenspark Wind Columns:


Why Allenspark?

Going Riding [August, 1985]


Used Cars

Peace and Quiet [1986]

Liberals & Conservatives

Going to the Movies

The Screened Porch

The Beginning of The Season

The Weather

The Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The End of The Season

The Gift of Time

The Beavers

Addresses [1987]


Watching the Trees Grow

Postal Rates

Changes in Estes Park

Square Dancing at the Pow Wow

Back to the Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The Solstices

Bird Feeders


The Estes Park Hardware Store [1988]


Limousine Service

A Memorial Service

A Hummingbird


A Hiking Trip

The Estes Park Public Library

Wild Life

Riparian Rights [1989]




Mountain Friendliness

A Motorcycle Trip

Satellite Television

“Weaving Mountain Memories”

Hotel Rates in the Old Days

The Price of Propane [1990]

The Front Range Almanac


Modes of Transportation

Miller Moths

My 50th Column

Modern Conveniences

Rock Climbing

On the Death of Otto Walter, Postmaster

Otto’s Memorial Service

A Big Owl Pot-Luck Dinner

A Whine About Telephone Service [1991]

After the Persian Gulf War

Some Changes in the WIND

The Trip to the Mountains

The Mountains in the Summer


Of Dogs, Music, and Children

Muhlenburg County

To My Grandson

The Sale of Longs Peak Inn

World War II  [1992]

Murphy’s Law and the Computer

The South St. Vrain Canyon


The Hazards of Volunteering

Crime in Our Valley


On the Death of Charles Eagle Plume

Can We All Get Along?

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lost Horizon [1993]


Rumors About a Visit by the Pope


More About Fences


The Visit of Pope John Paul II

Forest Fires

The New Sewage System

The Snow Pool

The Good Old Days [1994]

The WIND’s 20th Anniversary

The Bunce School

The Shooting Gallery

The Estes Park Museum

Our Government

U.S. West Takes a Hit

The Year of the Hummingbirds

A New “Yield” Sign

Growth in Allenspark

Private Telephones?

The Salvation Army

Creation Science [1995]

Devolutionizing Big Government



Fort D.A. Russell

Domestic Terrorism

Old and New

Barney Graves

Life in the Wilderness

What’s In a Name?

Arthur C. Clarke


The Estes Park Trail-Gazette Columns:

July 1983


Estes Cone

Johnny Grant

Observations in Estes Park

The Bath House


The Sutherland’s Ice House

How Old is Charles Eagle Plume?


Christmas Trees

Tree Murder

Mountain Driving


Mail Boxes

More About Mail Boxes

“Are you related to ....?”


An Accident

The Wild Cat

A July Reunion

A Visit to Baldpate Inn

Opening Cabins


The Times, They Have Changed

Death and Transfiguration

The Population Explosion

The March of Time

Faith-Based Social Services

Looking for Pitch

Recent Writings I

Recent Writings II

Recent Writings III

Recent Writings IV

Recent Writings V

Recent Writings VI



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