Last week, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission voted unanimously to study wildlife dynamics in two areas of Colorado where mule deer populations have declined from historic levels. Consistent with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation’s recognition that science is the proper tool to discharge wildlife policy, these research projects will now move forward with the goal of better understanding factors that may be limiting ungulate populations in certain areas of the state.
The proposals, set for the Piceance and Upper Arkansas River Basins, will expand on longstanding efforts to monitor and research mule deer populations in these areas. In the case of the Piceance mule deer herd, CPW biologists have monitored this area continuously for nearly 70 years, giving agency staff unique insight into the need for targeted research aimed at determining whether predation may be limiting mule deer recovery. Similarly, 20 years of data collection in the Upper Arkansas has led CPW researchers to believe that mountain lion predation is the leading cause of doe and fawn mortality in an area where the mule deer population is currently below objectives approved by the Commission.
Both the Piceance and Upper Arkansas projects were developed to be compatible with the Commission’s Mammalian Predator Management Policy, which includes substantial public participation requirements and detailed discussion of the factors leading to the agency’s decision to implement predator control. Both proposals are also consistent with important elements of CPW’s West Slope Mule Deer Strategy, a plan developed with public input and approved by the Commission that aims to address mule deer decline comprehensively.
Prior to Commission’s vote, several sportsmen’s organizations, including the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), wrote to the Commission to express support for the research projects. Joining CSF were the Colorado Outfitters Association, Colorado Trappers & Predator Hunters Association, Colorado Youth Outdoors, Mule Deer Foundation, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Wild Sheep Foundation.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?