Biologists and game managers are monitoring the health of big game wildlife populations across the West, and due to a harsh winter and heavy snowfall, many do not like what they see. Weather conditions highlighted by a snowpack more than 80 inches deep and forage covered by hard-packed snow, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recommends reducing the availability of licenses in the northwest corner of the state for elk and other big game by more than 40 percent.
“This has been a tough year for licenses setting in the Craig area,” Bill de Vergie, CPW area wildlife manager, told Colorado Outdoors. “We know this impacts more than just CPW. These decisions also have impacts on hunters and the local economy, that’s what makes these decisions the hardest. My hope is they understand this isn’t something we wanted to do, it’s something we had to do.”
CPW wants to get the word out so hunters, both resident and nonresident alike, can make alternate plans prior to the April 4th license application deadline. It is important to note that the recommendations are not set in stone but will be presented to the Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting in May for final approval.
For now, biologists will continue to monitor the situation via aerial surveys and on-the-ground reports.
“I wish we could see into the future,” Darby Finley, CPW area terrestrial biologist, told Colorado Outdoors. “Unfortunately, we don’t know what Mother Nature has in store for the next couple of months. However, we are fortunate to have radio collars out on deer in the White River herd and elk in the Bear’s Ears herd and will be able to quantify survival in these herds. Pronghorn herds will be more difficult to assess until the snow melts.”
Colorado wildlife is not alone in dealing with adverse winter conditions. Click here to view a map that details the percentage of snowpack by average across the West.
(Graphic source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)