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Wildlife is her life’s work

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Patt Dorsey, southwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, is the Colorado recipient of the “Wildlife Officer of the Year Award” from Shikar-Safari Club International. Dorsey said she could have been considered a tomboy as a child. It carried over as she reached adulthood. “I always hunted with guys, never with women,” she said.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

When, as a sixth-grade 4-H project, Patt Dorsey built a goose box to protect the then-scarce Canada goose from predators, she made a career choice.

“I was hooked. I wanted to go to college and be a wildlife manager,” Dorsey said recently. “I never wanted to be a ballerina – for which I’m sure a lot of people are thankful.”

Today, Dorsey is the southwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango. She was named to the position Friday after 10 years as regional wildlife manager. The promotion means she will supervise six state parks as well as wildlife in a region that stretches from the Utah state line to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and includes the Gunnison Basin and the Montrose-Delta area.

She also is the Colorado recipient of the 2012 “Wildlife Officer of the Year Award” from Shikar-Safari Club International.

It’s the first time the award, given since 1952 in each state, has gone to a woman in Colorado. The club promotes hunting and wildlife conservation.

Dorsey’s childhood home was outside Loveland, but she spent weekends, holidays and summers on her grandparents’ farm in Proctor on the plains in Colorado’s northeast corner.

“My grandmother was a great naturalist and an inspiration to me,” Dorsey said. “She could name every songbird, and she knew every animal by its tracks.”

She recalled her grandmother’s stories about how hunting and fishing kept the family alive during the Great Depression.

Dorsey started hunting with her father and grandfather when she was 9 years old and remains a keen hunter today.

“I hunt more now with a bow than a rifle,” Dorsey said. “Bow season gives me more days – 28 – in the field.”

In 1985, Dorsey received a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University. Her career with Colorado Parks and Wildlife began in 1991 as a district wildlife manager in Boulder. Six years later, she moved to the agency’s education section in Denver as a special-projects coordinator and then became statewide hunter-education administrator.

Dorsey came to Durango in 2003 as area wildlife manager to supervise a staff of 15, including wildlife managers, biologists and administrative workers.

She still likes to get outdoors, despite her oversight duties.

Dorsey recently drove west of Durango to the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, which right now is closed to the public in order to provide an undisturbed winter home for elk and deer.

She looked for tracks in the snow that would indicate how many antlered visitors were there, and she was on the alert for trespassers. When times are tough, she said, horse owners who can’t afford to buy hay sometimes have released stock into the wildlife area.

“I love being here in the winter,” Dorsey said. “In the summer, we know what ought to be here, but in the winter, we know what is here.”

In his letter to Shikar-Safari nominating Dorsey for the award, Bob Thompson, assistant chief of law enforcement for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, described her as enthusiastic, approachable, creative, humble, open-minded and motivational.

“She has been at the forefront of numerous challenges and changes where her personal and professional qualities have allowed her to stand out,” Thompson said.

“Patt worked through many challenges and frustrations involving permitting of oil and gas facilities, and was instrumental in the conception, development and negotiations of a conservation-based wildlife-mitigation plan with British Petroleum.

“Her vision, effort and support helped create a mountain lion exhibit that was seen by over 15,000 people at the Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College. This exhibit continues to travel to museums around the U.S.”

Dorsey doesn’t want to be known only for her professional role or as a hunter.

“I have a garden, do bead work and raise chickens,” she said.

She also volunteers for workshops at least twice a year with Conservation Leadership for Tomorrow, a professional-development program for graduate and undergraduate students in natural resources.

The Shikar-Safari award was an honor because the recognition comes from peers.

“There are a lot of great wildlife officers in Colorado, and I’m proud to be one of them,” she said.


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