Colorado Mule Deer Strategy aims to restore state’s herd

Mule deer fawns are the key to future deer herds, but that foundation is lacking in many herds across the West. The reasons are many, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is looking to develop a strategy aimed at enhancing and increasing deer numbers.

Sometime this summer, what’s being plotted as a path to reverse the decline in the state’s mule deer herds will be unveiled.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, with a lot of help from state and federal land-management agencies, hunters, conservation groups and, most important of all, the general public, will open discussion on a new mule deer initiative titled “The Colorado Mule Deer Strategy.”

It won’t be a set-in-stone policy but rather an adaptive management tool that still is in the formative stage.

“My goal is to get everyone involved, and that means finding a way to get members of our public who don’t normally get involved with these type of situations,” said Parks and Wildlife Northwest Region co-manager Ron Velarde.

Colorado’s mule deer population is estimated at around 408,000, down from the 418,000 estimated in 2012 and 430,00 in 2011. That’s about one-half of the level during the all-time high years of the 1940s and 1950s.

“There is not one set goal,” Velarde emphasized. “We’re going to examine the issues and the possible solutions and put together a strategy for the next five-year season structure.”

“We want to stay away from side discussions and focus on the issue at hand, which is: How can we enhance our mule deer populations and provide recreation for our customers?”

The first question anyone asks is: What’s causing the collapse?

State big-game manager Andy Holland said there’s no single answer.

“We’re looking at impacts from severe winters, increased human and energy development, habitat fragmentation and depletion, migration corridor fragmentation, it’s a host of things,” Holland said.

“Colorado isn’t alone in this,” Holland added. “Other Western states also are seeing declines in mule deer populations.”

Predation and habitat, particularly the availability of quality winter habitat, likely will be among the most-discussed topics.

“Nothing is off the table for discussion,” Velarde said, “but we want to get everyone focused and going in the same direction.

“No one can do this on their own. It takes time and money, and none of us alone have all the time and money” required to stabilize deer herds.


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