Division of Wildlife tweaks elk licenses in some parts of the state
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Wildlife Commission has set license numbers for most big game species for the 2011 hunting seasons, making some changes to hunting in the Bears’ Ears herd near Craig, the White River herd near Meeker and the San Juan herd east of Durango. Cow tags in those areas have been cut significantly in an effort to nudge the herd toward the upper end of the objective range in response to requests by hunters and outfitters for more elk, according to CDOW big game manager Andy Holland.
“We’re constantly trying to balance different interests like hunter satisfaction and opportunity with minimizing game damage,” Holland said. “Experience is teaching us the upper and lower social thresholds for elk in many areas.”
With elk herds in parts of the state nearing objective, Holland said, license numbers are being cut in some units to maintain population levels. This represents a change from 10 years ago, when the Division increased licenses and opportunity to achieve population objectives and respond to landowner complaints of damage to fences and crops.
Holland said Colorado’s post-hunt elk population is estimated at 282,000 animals, roughly the same as 2009. Estimated elk harvest was 48,000, approximately the same as 2009.
Colorado’s 2010 post-hunt deer population estimate declined 7 percent to 430,000, with most of the decline represented by mule deer herds in far western and southern portions of state, Holland said. Estimated harvest was steady at about 35,000 animals. Holland said managers have already reduced license numbers in many of the herds that have shown decline in previous years in response to higher mortality during the snowy, cold and long winter of 2007-2008.
East of Interstate 25, plains deer herds are doing well, with licenses stable or increasing where the Division is looking to reduce white-tail numbers.
“Where we have had concerns with some West Slope mule deer herds, we have lowered buck licenses to maintain buck-doe ratios,” Holland said. “So hunters who do draw tags will still find good buck hunting.”
The state’s post-hunt pronghorn population is estimated at 79,000, slightly higher than in 2009. Hunters enjoyed a record harvest, topping 12,000 animals for the first time. Pronghorn continue to do extremely well on the Eastern Plains but some herds are struggling in the west and southwest. This winter, deep snows caused some pronghorn mortality in Craig, Maybell and in North Park. In the southeast corner of the state, abundant pronghorn populations will offer hunters plentiful opportunity again in 2011.
Colorado’s moose population is currently estimated at 1,690, continuing the steady increase over previous years. This year, the Division has created new moose units on the Front Range and Continental Divide, reflecting the species’ expansion across the state. Colorado will offer moose hunting in 36 game management units in 2011.
Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington said the 2010 pheasant season was one of the best in memory. Pheasant harvest was estimated at 79,000 birds, almost double the harvest from two years ago, he said. The Commission’s 2009 decision to drop the $20 permit for access to Small Game Walk-In properties to remove a potential barrier to pheasant hunting participation appeared to pay dividends, Remington said. Hunter surveys showed a 39 percent increase in walk-in access use, including a 33 percent jump among youth hunters.
For 2012, the Division is looking to improve its walk-in program with funds from a federal grant that will allow managers to encourage better pheasant habitat management on private lands leased by the program.
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