Colorado Parks and Wildlife PIO says agency likely lost $2 million due to hunter refunds in 2020

CPW believes increase in over-the-counter hunting and fishing license sales more than made up for that deficit in 2020

A deer looks on in the snow near the White River.

When the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires were at their peaks in mid-October, Colorado Parks and Wildlife knew the impact was going to be significant on hunting season – both on rates of success and on CPW finances.

Randy Hampton is the Public Information Officer for the Northwest Region of Colorado covering Craig and Moffat County, Rio Blanco County, Garfield County and Routt County. He said the agency lost more than $2 million in refunded hunting licenses and tags in an unprecedented year.

Hampton added that the agency was forced to move a number of tags into different Game Management Units (GMUs) throughout Colorado due to fire conditions.

“We know there were people that did not show up due to the fires and COVID; there was a lot of concern there,” he said.

Hampton added though that CPW did see a significant increase this year in over-the-counter hunting and fishing licenses, as well as single-day park passes and similar items, helping cover for any sort of deficit created from the refunds. CPW still needs to have its financial department go over the numbers and determine how much was officially lost due to refunds, and how much was gained due to over-the-counter sales.

“Anything outdoorsy was huge this year, especially,” Hampton said. “Anything that got people outdoors was a huge hit; people went crazy for that stuff.”


With hunting season mostly wrapped up at this point in the year, CPW is working on gathering information on harvest numbers for 2020, as well as numbers on the presence of chronic wasting disease within Colorado.

That said, Hampton says that deer harvest in Moffat County was good, while elk harvest was strong in the first and second seasons before tapering off in the third and fourth seasons, largely due to warmer temperatures.

“Deer harvest was good; the season seemed to fall just right,” Hampton said. “The deer population is not as mobile as what we see in elk. Resident deer hang out in certain areas throughout the year, whereas elk tend roam far and wide, spending the summer months in very high, dark timber, and moving winter range out onto the flats in the areas of western Moffat County for winter.

“So, the typical migratory pattern for elk is dark timber up closer to Hayden, and Steamboat area in the summer months, before then pushing down to western Moffat in the fall and winter,” Hampton said. This year though, CPW didn’t see the usual migration of elk to western Moffat County due to the warmer temperatures.

“Because of warmer temperatures, what we did not see was a lot of elk movement late,” Hampton said. “We’re having trouble in places they’re used to finding elk. Still to this day, they really haven’t moved.”

Aside from the limited, late migration from elk, Hampton did say CPW is pleased with increased number of bears harvested in Colorado this year, which is something the agency pushed for in 2020 with increased tags and a longer season.

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