DOW plans public forum on elk populations

Officials will show math behind numbers, take audience questions, suggestions

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What: Colorado Division of Wildlife public forum, hosted by the Craig Chamber of Commerce

When: 6:30 p.m. April 6

Where: American Legion Post 62, 1055 County Road 7

— The Colorado Division of Wildlife wants the public to be informed and involved in its wildlife management programs.

The agency plans to participate in another public meeting in Craig at 6:30 p.m. April 6 at American Legion Post 62 in Craig, 1055 County Road 7, this one hosted by the Craig Chamber of Commerce.

The topic will be more controversial than the February forum on hunting season structures.

Residents will meet with state officials to discuss the DOW's process for estimating big game herd sizes, documented population trends during the past several years and its overall management policies.

In the past few years, several residents and the Moffat County Commission have openly questioned the agency's reports on elk herd population numbers.

Comments from residents have not been consistent, however. Some have stated that the region has too many elk, while others think the region has too few.

Bill de Vergie, Colorado Division of Wildlife area wildlife manager for the Meeker office, said he wants residents to come prepared to share their ideas.

"If people have ideas they want to share, we'd love to hear it," he said.

DOW officials plan to present a detailed account of every step the agency uses to calculate population estimates, which includes flyovers, hunter surveys and computer modeling.

After the presentation, de Vergie said he expects to open up the meeting for general discussion.

He said he wants the meeting to help the public understand how the DOW operates and also give them a chance to provide management suggestions after people learn about the current process.

"Do we have too many elk, not enough elk or just about the right amount?" he said. "That's kind of what I'm hoping to get people talking about. We'll answer whatever we can."

Officials won't give out estimates for this year, de Vergie added, because they haven't been compiled yet. The Wildlife Commission, which oversees the DOW, plans to approve population numbers around May.

More than anything else, though, de Vergie wants the upcoming forum with local residents to help bring his agency closer with the local public.

"People are just asking us to be more open," he said. "We just want to be able to show what we're doing."

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