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Tumbleweeds causing turmoil for Colorado rancher after Sunday winds

Painted Skull Ranch is covered in more than 100 acres of tumbleweeds.
Posted at 8:09 PM, Oct 24, 2022

EL PASO COUNTY — Tumbleweeds are towering as high as some trees in Ellicott, about 30 miles east of Colorado Springs.

"It was breezy all morning, and then it just started really blowing hard, and here they came across the pastures," said Delbert A. Vahling, who owns Painted Skull Ranch, recounting the moment tumbleweeds began blowing onto his property on Sunday.

The tumbleweeds were so high they blocked Vahling's front door. At one point, he had to pull the plants off of a cow who was buried underneath.

"My first thought was fire danger... And the whole front porch was covered and I was worried about a spark from anything starting a fire. Still a big concern," said Vahling.

Tumbleweeds on High Altitude Ranch in Ellicott, CO.

Crews from El Paso County hit the roads on Sunday and Monday to clear tumbleweeds from public areas. They soaked the tumbleweeds before clearing them to help prevent any of it from catching fire.

The county cannot clear tumbleweeds from private property, telling News5:

The county does not remove tumbleweeds from private property. Property owners can dispose of tumbleweeds in local landfills. Russian Thistle, also known as tumbleweeds, is not on the Colorado Noxious Weed list. Unfortunately, the plant is widespread and beyond control as it is found in every state in the U.S., except Alaska and Florida. As it is not on the noxious weed list, we have no ability to enforce control of the plant.
Spokesperson for El Paso County

Multiple hauling companies told News5 on Monday they received calls for service regarding tumbleweed removal, but no jobs had been completed yet due to backlogs or lack of confirmation.

For Vahling, tumbleweed removal was not in this year's budget.

"Farming and ranching is tough anyway, so any added expense... We just can't afford it. Hay prices are crazy. I wish I could feed this to the cows," said Vahling.

Vahling believes it will take at least one month to clear the tumbleweeds off of his property.

El Paso County encourages property owners to take preventive measures early in the season to mitigate plant growth on their property. Some methods to control tumbleweed growth is keeping property maintained by mowing or using herbicides including 2,4-D, dicamba, or glysophate.

If tumbleweeds are still blocking roads in El Paso County, people can file a request to have them removed here.
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