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Declining populations spur Colorado mule deer strategy summit

Stakeholders to help hash out a plan in facilitated meeting format

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A Colorado mule deer near Missouri Creek. Photo courtesy Kim Fenske.

By Summit Voice

*More Summit Voice mule deer stories here

FRISCO —Colorado wildlife managers are trying to develop a strategy to confront the continued decline in the state’s mule deer population. To get some input on shaping a plan, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in coordination with The Keystone Center, an independent facilitator, is holding a series of seven public meetings across the state, including three in the northwest region during May. The resulting strategy will guide agency efforts to work towards increasing mule deer populations.

The decline is evident in other western states. In Colorado, population numbers have dropped below state-set targets, and despite intensive research, the exact cause is still uncertain, though it appears energy development near key mule dear nurseries is a factor. Climate and natural population cycles may also play a role, although it’s important to remember that mule deer populations have been managed to artificially high levels for hunting.

When humans tamper with the balance between apex predators and prey, strange things usually happen. On top of that, some of northwestern Colorado’s most active fossil fuel fields are smack-dab in the middle of mule deer territory. Conversion of shrub habitat to grasslands through clearing or wildfires also crimps populations, according to the Colorado Mule Deer Foundation.

Some deer hunters have advocated for more extermination of predators, but that hasn’t been proven as a successful strategy across wide areas.

“The declining mule deer population is concerning to our agency and many stakeholders across the state,” said Chad Bishop, Assistant Director, Wildlife and Natural Resources for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Due to the variety of factors that influence deer populations, we are looking for public feedback on an approach that brings together everyone’s limited resources in an impactful way.

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Public meetings are an opportunity for people to meet with agency staff, learn more about the history of mule deer in Colorado, and provide input to be considered in developing a mule deer strategy.

“We truly want to hear from sportsmen, landowners, industry, conservationists and other constituents about their current experiences with mule deer and their ideas moving forward to increase the population,” added Ron Velarde, Northwest Region Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Additional information about the strategy and times and locations of meetings across the state can be found by visiting The Keystone Center website at: http://keystone.org/muledeer

West Slope

Mule Deer Strategy Public Meetings in Northwest Colorado:

Eagle
 – Tuesday, May 6, 6 – 9 p.m. 
Eagle County Fairgrounds, 426 Fairgrounds Road

Grand Junction
 – Tuesday, May 13, 6 – 9 p.m.
Country Inns of America, 718 Horizon Drive

Craig – 
Tuesday, May 20, 6 – 9 p.m.
Moffat County Fairgrounds, 640 E Victory Way

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