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Oak

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Dec 23, 2000
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Colorado
Not looking good....

Colorado Parks and Wildlife monitoring severe winter conditions, impacts to wildlife a concern

2/5/2016

MEEKER, Colo. - Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers in the state's Northwest Region say the most recent blast of snow and frigid temperatures has created conditions similar to some of the most extreme winters in the state during the past 35 years. With temperatures dropping well below zero and deep, powdered snow drifts layered over crust limiting big game's access to available forage, CPW officials say conditions could lead to increased wildlife mortality in portions of the region unless the weather moderates significantly.

The area experiencing the most severe impacts includes Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties. Eagle, Garfield and Jackson counties have developed severe winter conditions more recently and managers in Grand and Summit counties are also expressing concern.

"I've just returned from a tour of the area and based on what I saw, we will likely see some significant impacts to wildlife," said CPW Regional Manager Ron Velarde. "But people need to understand that, despite how damaging conditions are right now, wildlife has been experiencing and surviving severe weather for eons without human intervention, so it's important to have the proper perspective."

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Northwest Region is home to moose, mule deer, greater sage-grouse, elk, pronghorn and many other species that may be affected; however, the impact to the mule deer population is a specific concern. Over the last decade, the species has seen a continued drop in numbers in parts of Colorado and across the Western United States due to a variety of factors.

Wildlife officials say that many species, especially deer, were in excellent physical condition heading into winter due to good moisture and the subsequent abundance of summer forage, and Western Colorado had been experiencing mild winter conditions until just before Christmas. In addition, CPW's multi-faceted mule deer management program has been yielding positive results. Although their overall numbers are well below objective, survival rates of adult and fawn mule deer in northwestern Colorado have been very high during the last few mild winters.

Nevertheless a drop in numbers where winter conditions are the most severe is expected this year.

According to Area Wildlife Manager Bill de Vergie of Meeker, the severe winter has led to numerous reports of conflicts, primarily elk and deer entering private land and causing damage to haystacks and utilizing cattle feed lines.

"All we can do is respond as best we can on a case-by-case basis while nature takes its course," he said. "We can usually influence many of the threats to deer populations using a variety of management actions, but we have no control over weather. In fact it has been the the absence of severe winters and drought that has allowed the deer to obtain good health prior to this winter."

Although wildlife managers are using limited amounts of hay and other types of feed to bait wildlife away from livestock feed grounds on private property, the agency has received numerous inquiries from the public suggesting that a large-scale feeding program be implemented to address potential starvation.

"By policy, certain conditions have to be met before an emergency feeding program can be considered and we are not there yet," said Velarde. "But what is very important for the public to understand is that, although we may see short term effects from feeding, our experience has shown that it has had limited long-term benefits overall."

Velarde adds that feeding operations in areas where chronic wasting disease has been detected, including many areas within the Northwest Region, can only be approved by the CPW Commission. It limits emergency winter feeding for mule deer to those areas where winter mortality of adult female deer is expected to exceed 30 percent.

According to Senior Terrestrial Biologist Brad Petch, the agency is monitoring adult doe and fawn survival with several hundred radio-collars. In addition, CPW personnel are conducting extensive visual observations of herds and inspections of carcasses to determine body condition and cause of death. Based on current observations, mortality is less than 10 percent.

"That percentage can certainly change quickly under such conditions," said Petch. "Our personnel are keeping a very close watch on conditions and mortality, and we will continue to do so through the rest of the winter."

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds the public that feeding wildlife at any time can be very detrimental to their long-term survival, in addition to being illegal. Some non-natural foods can lead to severe digestive ailments that can cause death in ungulates like mule deer and elk. Feeding concentrates wildlife, increasing the likelihood of disease transmission. In addition, it can lead to a dependency on human-provided foods, change natural migration patterns and attract predators.

"We understand that people want to help in situations like these," said Velarde. "But feeding should only be done by professionals, if it’s done at all. If people take matters into their own hands, it will likely do more harm than good, leading to wildlife deaths, and can also result in citations and fines."

Velarde adds that the most effective way for people to help wildlife stressed by winter conditions is to limit activities on winter ranges, where deer and elk are finding shelter and foraging for what food remains available. Human-caused disturbance leads wildlife to expend critical energy necessary for survival during the coldest time of the year, he said.

To learn more about mule deer and Colorado's effort to address their decline, see Colorado's West Slope Mule Deer Strategy.
 

schmalts

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 22, 2002
Messages
8,834
Location
WI
Just when the mule deer hunting was getting to its best it has been in over a decade mother nature takes swing again.
 

theat

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 28, 2010
Messages
728
Location
NW Montana
I spent December catching about 450 mule deer in NW Colorado as part of a multi year CPW study. The fawns that I weighed ranged from 34lbs to 108lbs. Most were in the mid 80s. Lots of very healthy deer going into the winter.

I just got done catching deer in NC Montana. It is amazing how much bigger the deer were in Colorado. Some of the 2 year old bucks were not much bigger than a big CO fawn.
 

cur dog

Active member
Joined
Feb 20, 2011
Messages
421
Ouch!! I decided not to apply for Wyoming elk this year and instead, hunt deer in the Colorado high country. This is good information, but it has me seriously scratching my head for another 2016 option.
 

HighDesertSage

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 6, 2013
Messages
3,282
Location
Sage Brush to Corn Fields
I spent December catching about 450 mule deer in NW Colorado as part of a multi year CPW study. The fawns that I weighed ranged from 34lbs to 108lbs. Most were in the mid 80s. Lots of very healthy deer going into the winter.

I just got done catching deer in NC Montana. It is amazing how much bigger the deer were in Colorado. Some of the 2 year old bucks were not much bigger than a big CO fawn.

CO grows big mule deer. I've hunted mule deer in several other western states, and the bucks in CO were bigger in body mass and antler size.
 

Randy11

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 12, 2009
Messages
6,109
Have you guys been getting this spring weather? Feels like we've lost half our snowpack this last week up here.
 

Bambistew

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 10, 2002
Messages
6,212
Location
Chugiak, AK
Crazy winter. Hope the critters fair well down there.

I've run the snow blower 2x this winter. It's usually 2x a week. It hasn't snowed in almost 6 weeks. The sheep and other critters here are doing well.
 

jims

New member
Joined
Feb 12, 2006
Messages
317
We had deep snow about a week ago in the north front range of Colo. Since that time it's been in the 40's and 50's and barely freezing at night. It is supposed to be in the 40's to 60 the next 10 days. That ought to give the deer on the Front Range and Eastern Colo a break. I have a feeling Western Colo is a bit chillier than here but it's good hearing they are getting somewhat of a break. Just from checking around it sounds like the Gunnison Valley and NW corner have been hit the hardest. Keep your fingers crossed that there isn't any more deep, crusty snow on the winter ranges!
 
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