Commission to consider increasing hunting licenses

The Colorado Wildlife Commission Thursday will consider issuing thousands of either-sex licenses for elk covering numerous units around Craig and Northwest Colorado as the state looks to get a handle on growing elk populations.

"We typically have just a few of the licenses available each year," said Todd Malmsbury, chief information officer with the division of wildlife.

Proposals before the Wildlife Commission during its meeting in Denver Thursday could increase the number "by more than several thousand."

"The exact number hasn't been set yet," he said, adding the licenses would effect hunting units 3, 4, 11, 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 33, 34, 35, 36, 44, 45, 47, 131, 211, 231, 301, 441 and 444.

State commissioners are weighing options after an elk harvest wildlife biologists now put at around

50,000.

Good, but the state had hoped for better, Malmsbury said.

DOW estimates elk populations at about 305,000, while the state is targeting a healthier population of 240,000.

The division is now trying to put together post-hunt game populations for a clearer picture.

"The habitat over the long-term won't be able to support too many elk," Malmsbury said.

Swollen elk herds look to also threaten private property in a search for food.

"They'll get on grasslands or go after growing crops that ranchers are depending on," he added.

Coming off drought and with the state's snowpack levels generally lower, biologists don't believe winter attrition will dent elk numbers.

In normal years 20 percent of the state's elk population will not survive winter, according to DOW.

The state has restricted the availability of either-sex licenses in part due to the potential illegal kills.

"It dramatically increases the chance a hunt will be successful," Malmsbury said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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