CDOW area manager Bailey Franklin assists Bryce Purkey, who believes predators are the reason for declining deer population numbers in the area. Purkey, who has been processing big game in the same location (73215 Highway 64) for 48 years, displayed a collage depicting a large buck surrounded by the predators encountered by the largest deer herd in the state. “Somebody needs to get on the predators,” Purkey said.

CDOW area manager Bailey Franklin assists Bryce Purkey, who believes predators are the reason for declining deer population numbers in the area. Purkey, who has been processing big game in the same location (73215 Highway 64) for 48 years, displayed a collage depicting a large buck surrounded by the predators encountered by the largest deer herd in the state. “Somebody needs to get on the predators,” Purkey said.
RBC I “The deer herd is extremely important to our agency, it’s the biggest deer herd in the state,” Bill de Vergie, area supervisor for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), told a crowd of almost a 100 concerned citizens, ranchers, energy representatives and hunters at a public meeting Monday last, held to discuss the declining deer herd in the White River area.
The decline in the deer herd has limited the number of hunting licenses issued to deer hunters, which can have negative effects on the local economy.
“The main reason for this meeting is there is a lot of good discussion about the deer herd and we want to present what we are doing as an agency,” de Vergie said. “This is not an exact science and a lot of factors play into it.”
Local terrestrial biologist Darby Finley presented information on many of the factors including; weather, habitat, nutrition, population management, predation, disease and elk and deer integration, then told of a study he has been working on for several years.
“This is the most studied herd,” Finley said. “Data goes back to 1980.”
Finley has been working on a survival study in the D-7 area, which includes nine game management units (GMU 11, 12, 13, 22, 23, 24, 131, 211 and 231). Finley uses radio collars and ear tags to monitor 110 does, 120 fawns and 110 bucks and spoke of how the different factors affect the survival rates. Finley has been working on the study for nine years and said the survival rate for fawns last March was 40 percent and 79 percent for bucks, which was similar to does.
CDOW area manager Bailey Franklin spoke of the habitat projects and the Habitat Partnership Program (HPP), initiated in 1993 and led by a committee comprised of local people, who meet monthly to address big game habitat.
Franklin displayed pictures of an area on Oak Ridge where a hydro-axe was used to improve habitat in a mosaic pattern and the use of prescribed burns.
“You want a good balance between forage and cover,” Franklin said of the work on Oak Ridge.
Franklin said both methods are effective but the hydro-axe is expensive ($200/acre) and prescribed burns are difficult to plan because federal fire crews are needed. Franklin said most of the HPP’s $200,000 budget is spent on reseeding and noxious weeds, a “huge issue,” for many. Franklin said more than 3,300 acres were treated in 2009, with 64 percent on private land, 30 percent on CDOW and one percent on BLM, the majority with a hydro-axe at a cost of more than $500,000, with the Natural Resource Conservation Service providing 24 percent of the cost.
Researcher Chuck Anderson discussed the Piceance Basin Mule Deer and Energy Development study he has been working on the past three years, studying how deer respond to energy development in the area.
“It’s the largest deer herd in the state and the largest energy development in the state,” Anderson said. “We want to look at ways to manage co-existence. We want to come up with ideas to identify approaches to enhance winter range conditions and evaluate best management practices, then address development activity relative to mule deer migration routes.”
Anderson said he has four study areas; north and south Magnolia, Ryan Gulch and North Ridge, which has been left alone for comparison purposes, while implementing habitat treatments in the other three areas. Anderson said they have been using GPS data to define the areas and are starting the treatment phase of the study, he hopes continues until 2018.
de Vergie said they are working “closely” with several energy companies.
“There is a great cooperation between the DOW and the energy companies and more than 750 deer with radio collars in the area, which is a large sample size.”
Bryce Purkey, who has owned and operated Purkey’s Packing Plant for 48 years, had several pictures of predators in the area, with a photo of a big buck in the middle.
“Somebody needs to get on the predators,” Purkey said. “We need to get the politics out of the DOW and do something to help the DOW get rid of predators.”