Drought conditions may affect big game

DOW issues additional hunting licenses to minimize winter kill

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The Colorado Division of Wildlife has reported that big game herd numbers are way up this year, which isn't good considering the fact that forage for the animals is way down due to dry conditions, officials say.

At Monday's Colorado State Wildlife Commission meeting in Canon City, members will listen to suggestions from the Colorado Division of Wildlife on how to remedy the situation.

"The division will propose to the commission options for issuing additional cow elk licenses for the upcoming season," said Todd Malmsbury, spokesperson for the DOW. "The number and how many an individual can have will be an area of discussion."

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, who serves on the commission, said some action will have to be taken.

"There's been a lot of discussion on it," Raftopoulos said. "The conditions are dry and there's a lot of elk out there. We would like to see more elk taken this fall than see them die on the open range."

If more animals aren't taken this year it could have a negative long-term impact, Malmsbury said.

"The reason is winter forage is in such bleak condition," he said. "We're concerned about the long-term damage this might have to the habitat. The goal of this is to reduce the elk population."

Malmsbury said conditions have not been as bad as they are this year in 25 years.

Kathi Green, regulations manager with the Division of Wildlife, said many suggestions will be brought forward Monday.

"We're going to have a collection of proposals all related to the drought because we're concerned there's not enough forage," she said.

Options include late hunts, and allowing hunters to buy up to three elk licenses, she said.

She said one consideration is allowing 25,000 archery cow elk licenses. Normally there aren't any.

Those licenses would be sold as leftovers beginning Sept. 17, which would give archery hunters about two weeks before the archery season ends Sept. 29.

While most of the considerations being made involve reducing elk populations, Green said there is concern about the number of deer also.

"We have a couple of proposals for doe licenses, but doe hunting has been very controversial," she said.

There are so many deer that the DOW wouldn't have time to put a sufficient plan together for this season, she said.

"It would take so many and at this late date is was something we could not get put together," she said.

It will be a difficult year for the herds if numbers are not reduced, she said.

Normally shrubs grow a few inches off the ground but this year they only grew a half an inch, she said.

"We're just trying to figure out a way to reduce the number of animals that are out there to preserve the forage that is there," she said.

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