Wildlife doing well despite large snowfall and frigid temps in Northwest Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

Wildlife doing well despite large snowfall and frigid temps in Northwest Colorado

— Despite the recent amounts of snowfall and frigid temperatures in Northwest Colorado so far this winter, wildlife are doing fairly well, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

That means very few animals have died due to harsh winter conditions, according to a Jan. 13 Winter Range Conditions and Mule Deer Survival Report compiled by statewide Big Game Manager Andy Holland.

"This time last year we were already seeing about 10 percent mortality of mule deer fawns in the White River study area that includes everything south of the Yampa River," said CPW Senior Wildlife Biologist Brad Petch.

North of the Yampa River deer and elk have also been surviving better than last winter.

"So far we are doing pretty good on winter impacts on deer and elk," said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager, Bill deVergie. "We are not seeing any unusual die-off related to starvation."

Winter often brings wildlife in conflict with area ranchers.

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"There have been a couple of minor spots where we have tried to help ranchers when animals have gotten close to feed lines," deVergie said. "We used some cracker shells."

When fired, the shells create booming noises that frighten animals away.

"We are not having any troubles and conditions are about the same as last year," said Donna Deakins of the Deakins Ranch west of Craig. "We are hoping that the snow won't crust so hard."

Snow with a hard crust requires animals to expend more energy to reach food.

Weather conditions cause snow to crust in some areas in late December and early January. Recent milder conditions have softened the snow, deVergie said.

Collisions between wildlife and vehicles are another cause of mortality as snow pushes wildlife near or even onto roads.

"During periods of heavy snow, wildlife congregate near road sides creating serious concerns for collision," said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Public Information Officer for the Northwest Region Mike Porras.

Last week Colorado Parks and Wildlife initiated a baiting operation on U.S. Highway 50 near the town of Gunnison to entice wildlife away from the road, Porras said.

"I would ask people to take just a little more time when traveling on the highways to minimize deer, elk and car collusions and keep everyone safe," deVergie said.

Biologists make the most of winter conditions to collect data on big game herd numbers.

"It appears we are in a better place this year. However, survival studies run from early December to June and numbers can change a fair bit," Petch said.

CPW uses aerial surveys to gather data that is put into a modeling system providing an estimate of the number and sex ratios — amount of does compared to bucks and fawns for example, de Vergie said.

Of greater concern is the impact of disturbance caused by winter and early spring recreation.

"Please recreate in areas without wintering big game, use only open roads and trails, and keep dogs leashed," wrote Holland in the winter report. "Remember, if deer and elk are moving away from you, you are too close."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

At a glance

Big game — elk, deer and pronghorn antelope have moved to critical winter range where conditions are good and winter mortality is low, as of yet.

Predators — Bears are hibernating. Lions are out and hunters have been doing very well. Coyotes are prevalent and doing well. No reported wolf visitation to Northwest Colorado this year.

Small game — Rabbits were on a slight decline last year and again this year probably due to the tough winters.

Birds — Winter is a hard time to work on bird studies. Greater sage grouse lek counts and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse research will resume in the spring.

Source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Manager Bill deVergie.

Top six reasons not to feed wildlife

“There will be mortality, that is natural and feeding is not the easy solution,” Porras said.

1 — It’s illegal.

2 — It causes congregation of wildlife that leads to disease.

3 — Feeding might not be effective.

4 — It can be harmful to digestive system.

5 — It can disrupt migration.

6 — It can bring predators and increase encounters between predators, pets and people.

Source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife Public Information Officer for the Northwest Region Mike Porras