Workforce housing crisis encroaches on Summit County’s animal kingdom |

Workforce housing crisis encroaches on Summit County’s animal kingdom

American Black Bear
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

The affordable housing crisis in Summit County has spilled over into the animal kingdom. Increasingly, desperate shelter seekers are looking for nature-based alternatives to the traditional apartment.

And that’s bad news for foxes, bears, lynx, mountain lions and birds of prey, wildlife officials say.

“People think this is like the new tiny-home trend, that it’s cool to live in a log or something, but what they don’t understand is that animals will freaking eat your face off — they’re not playing around,” said Elissa Knox, a wildlife officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “If I find people squating in animal dens, I’m going shoo them out. It’s for their own safety”

Chuck Woodman, a lift operator at Breckenridge Ski Resort, is taking his chances. He said if a bear wants to challenge him for his two-bedroom cave just off the Colorado Trail near Tiger Run Resort, then may the best mammal win.

“I’m not giving this crib up without a fight ­— it’s right next to the bus stop,” he said. “If Smokey the Bear wants to make a power move, then come at me, bro.”

Woodman isn’t the only one thinking outside the condo when it comes to housing. More and more, Summit County’s workforce are turning to caves, nests, burrows, tree hollows and holes in the ground to meet their shelter needs.

“It’s so primal,” said Alli Langley, a restaurant hostess who recently moved into a large brush pile off the Peaks Trail near Frisco. “There’re no rules, no HOA — it’s just you versus nature. Darwinism doesn’t recognize deed restrictions, man. Plus, I’ve got a community garden going with a couple of rabbits.”

Wildlife photographer Bill Linfield said he’s noticed a significant change in the ecosystem he’s been chronicling for the past three decades. And the shift hasn’t been for the better.

“I was trying to take a picture of some osprey in Silverthorne, and this scruffy little guy popped up from the nest and did a bong rip,” he said. “Who wants to see that?”

Linfield said he has since issued a Tarzan call offering up his backyard to all displaced animals.

But humans aren’t the only ones to blame for the shortage of available crawl spaces. Some entreprenual critters are jumping into the short-term vacation rental game. A family of squirrels recently listed a Bristelcone pine for $150 on A beaver dam was up for grabs for $200 a night at

Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, a longtime champion for affordable workforce housing, said that gentrifying animal habitat isn’t a long-term solution. Both man and beast must work together to meet the needs of the community.

“How many 3-bedroom fox dens are out there?” he asked. “Human families are going to need more room as they grow. Now, if we were talking about those fancy animal houses like they have in ‘Wind in the Willows,’ then that’s different. But something like that’s going to take lasting partnerships between county government, the towns and some of our major employers like Vail Resorts. You don’t just build Toad Hall in a day.”

This story is an April Fools’ Day joke. It is a work of fiction. No animals were harmed in the writing of this story.

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