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Care about Colorado’s mule deer? Here’s a chance to be heard

  Mule Deer. Photo: Steve Torbit

By Judith Kohler | 4.18.14 
LOVELAND, Colo. – If you care about what’s happening with mule deer in Colorado, there are a lot of people at Colorado Parks and Wildlife eager to hear from you.

Many of them were out in force Wednesday night in Loveland. Wildlife biologists, researchers, an area manager and the state big game manager were on hand for the first of seven meetings across the state. The goal is to figure out why mule deer numbers are declining and what to do about it.

Following a statewide meeting in August, CPW, with the help of a contractor, will compile people’s comments, concerns and ideas to include in the Colorado West Slope Mule Deer Strategy.

“We’ve got a bunch of really talented biologists. We have our own opinions, but you guys are the ones that are on the ground as well. We value what you see and what you feel, so this is an opportunity to convey that,’’ said Steve Yamashita, CPW’s Northeast Regional Manager.

The focus is on western Colorado because that is where most of the mule deer are and where some of the biggest declines are occurring. Hunters, wildlife watchers, wildlife biologists and tourists are passionate about the big-eared, graceful creatures that are synonymous with the West’s rugged expanses.

While an intrinsic part of the region’s outdoor lore and lifestyle, the mule deer is in decline across the West. There are pockets in western Colorado where herds have grown, but overall numbers are dropping, said Chad Bishop, CPW’s assistant director of wildlife and natural resources.

After herds were nearly wiped out at the turn of the last century, new wildlife management techniques and improved conservation helped them rebound to in “excess of 600,000 deer by mid-century,” Yamashita said.

Now, mule deer appear to be at another crossroads. The latest post-hunting-season statewide estimate is 391,000 mule deer, below CPW’s statewide population objective of 525,000 to 575,000. Research has provided data and insights, but biologists acknowledge the causes could be multifold: declining habitat quality and quantity; disease; drought; severe winters; predators; barriers to migration; increased outdoor recreation.

During the first meeting on a mule deer strategy, biologists asked attendees what they have seen on the ground, what they think is driving down numbers and how to reverse the trend.

“We manage mule deer, wildlife in general, for you guys,” Yamashita said. “They’re the property of the state of Colorado, not CPW. That’s why it’s critically important that you give us your opinions.”

Here is the meeting schedule:

  • April 23, 2014 —Durango, La Plata County Fairgrounds, Extension Building, 2500 Main Ave, Durango
  • April 30, 2014 — Pueblo, Lake Pueblo State Park Auditorium, 640 Pueblo Reservoir Drive, Pueblo
  • May 5, 2014 —  Gunnison, Western State University, Aspinall-Wilson Center, 909 Escalante Dr., Gunnison
  • May 6, 2014 —  Eagle, Eagle County Fair Grounds, Eagle County Room, 426 Fairgrounds Rd, Eagle
  • May 13, 2014 — Grand Junction, Country Inns of America, 718 Horizon Drive, Grand Junction 81506
  • May 20, 2014 — Craig, Moffat County Fairgrounds, 640 E Victory Way, Craig

Read Colorado’s “Mule Deer Story” by Colorado Parks and Wildlife