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Hawks and eagles: One scout’s journey

Sixteen-year-old Mike Elmore (second from left) and his fellow troop members from Boy Scout Troop 316 erect a “hawk house” in Castle Pines North for Elmore’s Eagle Scout project. The houses encourage vole- and rabbit-eating hawks to spend time in the area to keep pests under control. (Photos courtesy of Wayne Elmore)

by Lisa Crockett

Most people in the Castle Pines community have tales of wildlife encounters.

Sure, a few of those will involve something exotic and perhaps dangerous – a bear, say, or some sort of large cat. But the majority of people who live here deal with something a bit more mundane: garden-variety pests that nibble on flower beds and chew away carefully-tended lawns. These pests can also be a problem in the community’s open spaces.

“There are a lot of prairie dogs, voles and rabbits in our community,” said 16-year-old Michael Elmore.

As a junior at Rock Canyon High School, Elmore took a class in Advanced Placement Environmental Science, where students learned about natural resources and biodiversity. Elmore also learned about ways to preserve landscaping without harming the environment.

To that end, Elmore gathered his fellow scouts from Castle Pines North’s (CPN) Boy Scout Troop 316 for two weekend-long carpentry projects to fulfill the project requirement for his Eagle Scout award. The final product was 11 “hawk houses” which serve as way stations for pest-eating birds of prey.

“These houses attract the Kesler Hawk, birds who love to eat voles, prairie dogs and rabbits,” said Elmore.

Elmore and his team erected the houses in various locations throughout CPN to encourage birds to stop and feed in the area.

Elmore’s project involved gathering lumber and other materials, and then coordinating a large group to follow a specific blueprint for the houses. Placement of the houses posed another challenge, one that Elmore went “high tech” to solve.

“We got on Google Earth to map out the greenbelts, then marked locations where we wanted to place the houses and gave the plans to the CPN Metro District for approval,” he said.

All told, the project took approximately 52 man hours with 10 scouts helping construct the houses and six helping with placement. Elmore said the time was well spent with good friends pursuing something together that would improve the neighborhood.

“It was fun teaching my friends to do something that’s going to be around for a while and feel like it will make a difference,” he said.

In addition to completing his project, Elmore also completed roughly 40 merit badges and numerous camping and hiking excursions in order to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

Elmore has one more year of high school and then plans to head off to college at the University of Colorado, Denver, to study mechanical engineering.



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