Businesses in Craig have noticed a drop in the number of hunters this year and the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is confirming the decrease in the number of people attempting to harvest big game in Northwest Colorado and statewide.
DOW field officers have reported that hunting pressure is down this year compared to last year.
Officers throughout the state are noticing the numbers of camps and hunters for second season have decreased. With fewer numbers of hunters the elk are less likely to move during the hunting seasons, according to Patty Dorsey, a DOW law enforcement officer. The fact that numbers of hunters are down and the weather has been unseasonably warm is making it tough for hunters to be successful, according to the DOW.
"It is extremely difficult hunting for elk," said Scott Wait, terrestrial biologist in Durango. "Because of mild temperatures, great forage and water, the elk are staying up in the dark timber. Many hunters are just not working hard enough, and those who are willing to hike farther into the back country are seeing less animals."
The Western Slope is reporting warm, dry weather conditions that have made harvesting animals difficult during the first two seasons.
"Without the snow, the animals are more difficult to find and tend to be scattered," said John Ellenburger, the DOW statewide big game manager.
The warm weather is concerning DOW biologists because hunters aren't achieving the harvest rates needed to keep the heard in healthy condition.
"The warm weather is not helping in the deer or elk harvest," said Jeff Madison, an area biologist in Meeker. "Harvest on elk is sparse on public lands, and has picked up on the mid-elevation private lands, but we would like to see more animals harvested."
The DOW remind hunters that if they harvest a big game animal with a radio collar on it they can help the DOW obtain critical information needed to manage the state's deer and elk herds.
Big game hunters harvest a number of animals with radio-collars and the DOW wants hunters to contact them with information related to the animal.
"Each individual radio-collared animal is important to our monitoring efforts and collars from animals harvested by hunters are just as important as any other collar," said Tom Pojar, DOW mammals researcher. "We need to determine the end point of each radio collar because even animals harvested represent a factor of the overall mortality impacting a population."
The DOW wants hunters to turn in radio collars and provide detailed information such as a description of the location of where the animal was killed, the date of the harvest, the type of animal equipped with the collar and the number of antler points the animal had. Other information may also be useful for the DOW such as was the animal by itself or in a herd, were there any other radio collared animals in the group.
Once the hunter provides the collar and other information to the DOW the hunter has the opportunity to learn some interesting information on the animal taken.
"Typically, we try and respond back to the hunter with information on where and when the animal was collared and some basic information on the project or study that was the impetus for the animal being collared in the first place," said Ellenberger.
DOW biologists and researchers use radio collars to track animals throughout the state. The information collected provides them with valuable information on survival rates. The data help set herd size objectives and tracking information.
Hunters who turn in the radio collars help the DOW save money because the collars can be refurbished and used again. The cost of a new collar can be cut in half by refurbishing a previously used collar. The cost of a new collar can range from $250 to $500, however the information is the most valuable to the DOW.
"Hunters support this important process of data collection," said Pojar. "And information of big game populations leads to better management of the herds, which is the ultimate goal."