CPW concerned re wildlife impacts from northwest Colorado's severe winter

February 5, 2016

 Colorado Parks and Wildlife issued a press release on February 5, 2016, expressing concern about impacts to wildlife in northwest Colorado from severe winter.  Here is the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mike Porras
CPW NW Region PIO
970-255-6162

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife monitoring severe winter conditions, impacts to wildlife
a concern
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
(http://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/MuleDeer/ColoradosMuleDeerStory.pdf)
.
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
(http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/CO-WestSlopeMuleDeerStrategySummit.aspx)
.

 

 

 

 

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