RBC I In Rio Blanco County, Colorado’s big game ungulates are having a great winter, according to Bill deVergie, the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife’s area wildlife manager in Meeker.
The elk and deer and the few moose in the area are really doing well, deVergie said Friday.
“The forage is in excellent shape, we have had really good moisture with roughly 85 to 95 percent of the normal moisture having fallen,” he said. “A lot of the snow we have had has disappeared, but it has melted into the ground, which is a good thing.
“The forage seems a little higher than normal for this time of year,” he said, “and this is the third year in a row that we have had very good conditions for the deer and elk.”
deVergie was exceptionally happy with the outlook for deer, he said, noting that the survival rate appears to be the best in recent years.
“We have had good snow and even rain all around,” he said. “We have had no really long cold spells. I’d say it really looks good toward adding to the existing population of the moose, elk and especially the deer.”
deVergie said it is a little bit early to speculate on what the spring and summer forage will be like with what could be another six weeks of winter.
“It’s just a little bit early to tell, but we have had a lot of precipitation and a lot of that soaking into the ground, where we want it,” he said. “We are certainly off to a good start.
“So much really does depend on what happens now through April,” he said. “If we continue to have good snow and rainfall, then conditions could be ideal. If it gets really warm and we don’t get much more precipitation, then there could be a few problems and the fire danger could get high.”
He said it has been nice to see the amount of late snow and cooler temperatures during the last two springs and that he is proceeding with the expectation of the same this year.
“All I know for sure is that we have had a lot of precipitation and conditions are almost ideal right now,” deVergie said. “There is a lot of moisture in the ground, the forage is high, the animals look good, the survival rate is good and it may even be that the predation by lions and bears has been quite low. Of course the bears are still in hibernation for up to another month.
“If the weather continues to cooperate, it should be a excellent year overall,” he said.
DeVergie said the next hunting season of concern—Colorado’s spring turkey hunt—is also expected to go well when it begins in April.
“There are amazing numbers of turkeys east of Meeker, which is part of the limited draw licensing area, and that application season has already closed,” he said. “All you have to do is drive up County Road 8 or a couple of those roads up high and you can see turkey everywhere.”
The areas west of Meeker are mostly unlimited quota hunt areas, and licenses for the turkeys there can be purchased at any licensing agent.
“I’d say the numbers are best east of Meeker, but there are some very good pockets of turkeys, particularly down in Piceance Creek,” he said. “It appears there was an excellent survival rate and there were quite a few chicks from last year, so there ought to be some pretty good numbers this spring.”
deVergie also wanted to remind hunters and fishermen and women of two issues.
The first is to be very cautious of ice fishing in Rio Blanco County from here on with a week of temperatures in 60s predicated for this entire week.
“The three big lakes down low are worth a word of caution,” deVergie said. “Rio Blanco Lake is wide open and there is no ice left, so that really isn’t an issue.
“But Kenney Reservoir’s east end is wide open and you can see the blue under the ice on the west end. I would issue a strong warning there, but certainly urge caution if someone is going out on the ice on the west end of Kenney,” he said. “Lake Avery is also showing signs of thinning ice and I would strongly urge caution there as well. I certainly wouldn’t want to drive a vehicle out on either one of those.”
Some of the lakes that still have good ice for fishing and snow for snowmobiling, deVergie said, are Lake of the Woods, Aldrich Lake and Pagoda Lake, which still have good ice. He did say, however, that with the higher-than-normal temperatures predicated this entire week, it would be wise to monitor the ice in all area lakes quite closely before putting a lot of weight on it.
He also wanted to remind hunters and fishermen that the 2014-15 hunting and fishing licenses expire on March 31 and that all licenses, stamps and endorsements for 2015-16 are required by April 1.