By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - The farming and ranching town of Deer Trail, Colorado, which boasts that it held the world's first rodeo in 1869, is now considering starting a 21st century tradition - paying bounties to anyone who shoots down an unmanned drone.
Next month, trustees of the town of 600 that lies on the high plains 55 miles east of Denver will debate an ordinance that would allow residents to purchase a $25 hunting license to shoot down "unmanned aerial vehicles."
Similar to the bounties governments once paid to hunters who killed animals that preyed on livestock, but only after they produced the ears, the town would pay $100 to anyone who can produce the fuselage and tail of a downed drone.
"Either the nose or tail may be damaged, but not both," the proposal notes.
The measure was crafted by resident Phillip Steel, a 48-year-old Army veteran with a master's degree in business administration, who acknowledges the whimsical nature of his proposal.
But the expansion of drones for commercial and government use is alarming, he said.
"We don't want to become a surveillance society," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
He said he has not seen any drones, but that "some local ranchers" outside the town limits have seen them.
Under the proposal, hunters could legally shoot down a drone flying under 1,000 feet with a 12-gauge or smaller shotgun.
The town also would be required to establish a drone "recognition program" for shooters to properly identify the targeted aircraft.
"In no case shall a citizen engage an obviously manned aerial vehicle," the draft proposal reads.
Steel said that if the town trustees don't vote to adopt the ordinance, it will go before voters in a special election.
"Yes, it is tongue-in-cheek, but I'm going to vote for it," said Dorothy Pisel, one of the town's trustees. "It could benefit the town with all the publicity."
Steel acknowledges his idea is symbolic but he hopes it will curtail the use of drones over the 1.1-square mile burg.
"If you don't want your drone to go down, don't fly it in town," he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration did not immediately have a comment.
(Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Phil Berlowitz)