State regulators are considering allowing the hunting of mule deer predators in some parts of western Colorado in an effort to increase deer populations.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission on Wednesday will consider the proposal, which would allow for the removal of as many as 15 lions and 25 bears a year from the Roan Plateau, in northwestern Colorado. The plan would be in force for three years to see if it boosts fawn survival rates.
Under the proposal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services would be contracted to do the roundup and culling, using hounds and live traps and snaring. Captured predator families would be relocated, and the rest would be killed. Meat from the dead would be donated to the needy.
In the Upper Arkansas Basin, the proposal would allow hunters to kill lions in an effort to help deer populations.
The Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Cougar Fund and other organizations sent CPW a joint letter last week appealing for the agency to drop its plans, according to The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction.
“Because these killing studies are not informed by the best available science and violate state law, because large-bodied carnivores are not resilient to heavy-handed persecution and because the cull will result in negative unintended consequences — including the orphaning of kittens and cubs — that outweigh supposed benefits, we oppose these proposed studies and request that the CPW Commission … not approve them,” the groups wrote.
Opponents argue that the agency should first focus on improving winter range and addressing habitat impacts including oil and gas development and livestock grazing, The Daily Sentinel said.
Three Colorado State University wildlife professors – Joel Berger, Kevin Crooks and Barry R. Noon – also criticized the proposal.
“CPW’s plans to test the effects of predator removal are not based on science, and run counter to prior scientific evidence published by CPW’s own researchers. We are concerned that CPW’s proposals are based on a narrow response to a vocal (and diminishing) minority of the general public focused on predator control as means to increase hunting opportunities,” the professors wrote to the agency.
The commission has held several public meetings about the proposal, including one in Rifle. Of 37 attendees in Rifle, about a half-dozen opposed the Roan Plateau project and a number of others supported it, The Daily Sentinel reported.
According to a CPW summary from the Rifle meeting, supporters of the proposal argued that “predators have robust populations and should not be regarded as untouchables in a management plan. They encouraged predator management control studies and management actions.”
A live audio of the meeting Wednesday in Fort Collins will be posted on the Parks and Wildlife website at http://www.cpw.state.co.us.