Conditions worsen for wildlife in NW Colorado

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RBC — The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is continuing to closely monitor winter conditions in northwest Colorado to determine if feeding operations will become necessary for deer, elk, pronghorn and bighorn sheep.
Continuing snowfall has made conditions worse in some areas but biologists aren’t yet calling for a full-scale feeding operation as is occurring in the Gunnison Basin.
“We’re flying herds at least once a week and monitoring from the ground on a daily basis,” explained Steve Yamashita, DOW assistant regional manager for northwest Colorado. “We also continue to monitor several hundred collared deer that are involved in ongoing wildlife studies in the Craig-Meeker area, Middle Park and the Piceance Basin.” (see previous press release for additional details on monitoring efforts /newsapp/press.asp?pressid =4732).
Heavy snow accumulations and blowing snow have made conditions more difficult for animals in the Steamboat Springs and Eagle area and wildlife managers have developed plans for those areas in the event that feeding becomes necessary.
“We are ready to feed on a moment’s notice,” added Yamashita. “But we don’t want to intervene too quickly. Some animals die every winter. It is how nature eliminates the sick and weak animals in a population. If you intervene too soon and prevent the natural processes you can unnaturally overinflate populations and aid the spread of disease.”
Because Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found in deer, elk and moose herds in parts of northwest Colorado, biologists are also concerned that feeding operations could spread CWD. Feeding operations can result in heavy concentrations of animals in an area, which can enhance disease transmission from animal to animal.
Wildlife managers are reporting some increased conflict between big game animals and agricultural operations, especially around Steamboat Springs and Eagle. Elk in search of food can consume large quantities of hay that ranchers are placing out for cattle. DOW officials are working with agricultural producers to minimize conflicts where possible, by baiting elk away from cattle feeding operations.
Wildlife officials will continue to monitor the situation as more storms are expected across northwest Colorado in the next week. Additional press releases will be issued as the situation continues to evolve.