Lyle Sidener and Bob Thompson retire after 70 years of combined service
by Nina Wood
On July 1, two long-time Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers retired, and the similarities between the two are pretty amazing.
Both men knew they wanted to be game wardens at a very early age, compared to some of us who are grown up and still don’t know what we want to do.
Lyle Sidener retired from the Hot Sulphur Springs district after 30 years of service and says he decided well before college the direction he wanted to go. He grew up in Salida and attended his first 2 years of college in that area before transferring to Colorado State University and earning a degree in wildlife biology from there in 1990. On July 1 of that year, he officially began work with what was then the Division of Wildlife and started his training in Denver to become a certified law enforcement officer. After seven months, he transferred to the agency office
in Colorado Springs, whose area included the city and well beyond.
The wildlife officers respond to many types of calls, and one of those while he was in the area he recalls as one of his more dramatic and traumatic in his career. He was requested by El Paso Sheriff’s Office to assist them in securing two wolf hybrids who had escaped the enclosure their owner had them in. The original request was for deployment of a tranquilizer gun, the closest of which was some distance away. What made the situation very difficult was that the wolves, a male and a female had killed the woman who owned them and only the quick thinking of her 12 year old son in grabbing his younger brother and getting him into a vehicle which he drove to the neighbor’s for help saved the two boys. Sidener had a rifle with him, and a short discussion later was permitted to kill both animals who were then taken for testing.
Fortunately, he went on to lesser traumatic calls as his career progressed.
He transferred later to the Grand Junction area where one of his focuses was in game damage assessment and control. Deer, it seems, are very fond of the orchards in the Grand Valley, not only damaging the fruit crops but also heavily damaging young trees just getting a start. Fences to keep them out was the cheapest way to control the problem. As he pointed out, the cost of fencing the orchards is much cheaper than having to pay year after year for a lost crop.
In 2005, he took over leadership of the Hot Sulphur Springs District. With a staff of officers, most with their own specialty, he has watched moose drift down from North Park, the expansion of the pronghorn population, the reintroduction of the big horn sheep, and the discovery of chronic wasting disease in deer and elk in the county.
A celebration of his career will take place a bit later. So what now? He says it just feels like he’s got a few extra days off right now. But as reality strikes, he plans to hunt ducks and has his big game fall licenses already secured. He’s also discovered what a great role he has in being a grandpa to a 2-year-old granddaughter.
Ironically, the same day , Bob Thompson who spent a number of years in the Hot Sulphur Springs district office retired after 40 years of service. He says he knew by the age of 8 or 9 he wanted to be a game warden. Growing up in Hatch, New Mexico, he began saving money for college by picking cotton and topping onions for which he got 5 cents a bucket. His high school counselor told him Colorado State University was the best place to get the degree he wanted, wildlife biology, of course. When he thought he had saved enough, he began his college studies, only to learn he had seriously underestimated the costs. It was up to him to figure things out, so it took him 8 years to get his 4 year degree. Then, he became a full time game warden on July 1, 1980, spending the first year training in Denver.
He and his family moved to Kremmling at the end of that training, and from then until 2005, he served in the Hot Sulphur Springs district. He didn’t name a specific incident as being particularly difficult, but as a branch of law enforcement, there were numerous times he was involved in accidents, search and rescue, and even plane crashes.
One thing made him unique among wildlife officers, choosing to become a K9 officer. For ten years, he teamed with German shepherd Shadow, winning a number of awards and at one point placing 5th in the nation among K9s.
In 2005, Thompson said he made a “really stupid” decision in choosing to go back to the Denver area where he became assistant law enforcement officer. Six years later he moved on to lead investigator with a staff of ten.
By 2018, he and his wife decided it was time to get closer to some of their grandchildren and applied to move to Grand Junction. The request was approved with some reluctance. And as of July 1st, he became a civilian.
He, like Sidener is a hunter, but having purchased a bit of property and an old farmhouse, he expects to remain busy.
The biggest change he’s seen in 40 years is in the number of species we now have in the state. The human population has grown, bringing challenges with it.
A celebration of his retirement will take place later.
Thanks, Lyle and Bob, for your many years of service to the people and wildlife of Grand County and elsewhere.