Colorado Division of Wildlife officials have seen both indirect effects leading to population declines and direct mortality in wildlife, in areas of intensive natural gas drilling.
John Broderick, DOW senior terrestrial biologist for the Northwest Region, said if and when intensive drilling comes to the Thompson Creek area where several gas leases have been sold, the impacts will be unmistakable.
The greatest direct mortality to wildlife related to natural gas drilling is in waterfowl, Broderick said. Ducks will land in reserve pits or production pits at drilling pads. Reserve pits are used during the drilling process, and contain drilling mud, water and substances used in hydraulic fracturing of underground rock to free trapped gas. Production pits contain produced water, the water that comes to the surface with gas. That water is likely to contain oily hydrocarbons and toxic substances such as benzene.
You don't have to physically knock down a raptor nest to prevent a pair of birds from breeding, he said. Industrial activity too near the area where the pair is involved in courtship behavior may discourage mating. And stress can cause the adult birds to abandon eggs or even young. The loss of a breeding season reduces population over time.
Roads are a big factor in the decline of deer and elk populations. Roads reduce the size of areas of unbroken habitat, which is especially harmful in elk calving areas like the aspen groves in the Thompson Creek area, Broderick said.
Another threat to trout populations posed by gas drilling is spills of industrial materials or toxic chemicals. Spills from tanker trucks and leakage from holding ponds happen frequently.
Before gas drilling began in West Divide Creek, CO in 2003, Lisa Bracken said there used to be elk, deer, wild turkeys, badgers, bears, cougars and eagles on her property. She said the wildlife has since left.
Hunters don't want contaminated meat
Bad water has decimated Ned Prather's outfitting business in Logan Mountain, CO. Hunters don't want to stay in a cabin with suspect water or to harvest deer and elk they fear could be drinking contaminated water.
Prather said in the past several years he has taken in more than $100,000 in the outfitting business he built up over 40 years. This year he had to borrow money to return deposits from hunters who changed their minds.
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