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Conservationists Urge Action as Mule Deer Dwindle in Colorado

Colorado's largest mule deer herd, and the largest in the country, has dwindled to less than 32,000 animals from 105,000 a decade ago.

Colorado's largest mule deer herd, and the largest in the country, has dwindled to less than 32,000 animals from 105,000 a decade ago.

In 2013, Colorado wildlife officials determined the state’s mule deer had hit a record low. At only 384,000 animals, the Centinnel State’s muley population is 200,000 short of the official target number and 36 percent less from almost a decade ago when 614,000 roamed across Colorado. The dramatic drop has many conservationists calling for immediate action to reverse the trend. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials will be holding a summit next month to meet with the public, and hopefully find a solution that will stop the mule deer decline.

“Across the Western US, state wildlife agencies are seeing declines in mule deer populations. In recent years, mule deer populations in Colorado have decreased in several areas on the West Slope, including the White River National Forest,” the CPW stated in a press release. “This spring, Colorado Parks and Wildlife embarked on a process to bring together sportsmen, landowners, outfitters, biologists, wildlife managers, other state agencies, federal agencies, local elected officials and other interested members of the public to address declining mule deer.”

Officials say that a number of factors have led to a drop in deer numbers, including drought, back-to-back harsh winters, disease, and increased predator activity. Some conservationists say that more attention should be placed on human involvement in deer country.

“There are a lot of things we can do,” Kate Zimmerman, public lands policy director for the National Wildlife Federation, told The Denver Post. “We can get better in the types of activities we allow in deer habitat—like oil and gas development. We can get better in the ways we do oil and gas development in order to reduce the impact on deer habitat.”

CWP officials said that human development of the backcountry will receive further attention at the August summit.

“We’ve tried to address it, but one of the things we’re doing is embarking on the largest outreach to our citizens for their feedback,” CWP spokesperson Matt Robbins told Fox News. “Priorities change based on regions throughout the state and this is not just a Colorado issue. It’s a multi-state issue.”

Overall, experts estimate that the number of mule deer in the West has dropped by more than 10 percent in the past decade.

Image from Oborseth on the Wikimedia Commons

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  • Chuck

    It is not oil and gas but predators!

    • Jack R. Strawther

      That does not make sense unless you mean the human predators on their ATV’s.

      • David

        Ummm, @Jack, I believe @Chuck is referring to the WOLF problem. Please clarify your comment thanks.

  • RICHARD

    wolves and more wolves, what does the departments of natural resources think……….predators are on increase everywhere and herds are declining. Wolves have substantially lowered whitetail and moose numbers in Minnesota!