Colorado Parks and Wildlife Solicits Opinion on 14 Moose Herd Management Plans – The Durango Herald = Colorado

The public has until December 20 to submit entries

Colorado Parks and Wildlife hopes 14 moose herd management plans will be approved in the southwestern region of the state. The plans would expire in 2033. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

In an effort to streamline its herd management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is seeking approval of 14 moose herd management plans in the southwestern region of Colorado and 16 deer herd management plans in the northwestern region of the state.

CPW develops herd management plans for a range of big game species including bighorn sheep, pronghorn, bear and mountain lion. The moose herd management plans include data on the size of each herd, sex ratio (the number of bulls per 100 cows) and calf survival.

Local stakeholders from each herd have already provided input on the proposals, which are now due for another round of public comment before CPW officials submit the plans to the Parks and Wildlife Commission for final comment and approval in January 2023.

Eleven of the plans were only approved in 2020 and are due to be extended to 2033.

The three revised herd management plans apply to the E-20, E-40 and E-43 herds located on the Uncompahgre Plateau, Paradox Valley and East Gunnison Basin respectively. The current herd management plans for these herds date from 2006, 2008 and 2001 respectively.

CPW senior wildlife biologist Jamin Grigg said all 14 herd management plans, following the same timeline, would streamline the process of developing new moose population targets and allow for more efficient management of all big game.

“For these three moose herds, previous targets were based on somewhat outdated population models,” Grigg said. “And we just feel like we have some better information and better population modeling techniques at this point.” So it’s really not proposing any major changes in terms of current management. Rather, it is about better aligning these population and gender ratio goals with our current understanding and population models.”

The current total population estimate for the southwestern elk herds is 122,000 elk, compared to an estimated all-time high of 140,000 to 145,000 at the turn of the millennium.

A map showing the 14 herds for which Colorado Parks and Wildlife proposes herd management plans that would be in place through 2033. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Grigg explained that private landowners at the time were concerned about the impact of such a large elk population on their property. CPW eradicated the population by intentionally harvesting female elk.

“Since that time, we’ve also seen a significant drop in calf survival rates, particularly in southwestern Colorado,” Grigg said. “A lot of this really correlates to a 20-year drought that we’re in. Calf survival is strongly related to rainfall, especially summer rainfall.”

The magnitude of the population decline was unintentional, Grigg said, and CPW is now trying to slightly increase the herd size within those three herds. The 14 herds in the southwestern state consist of an estimated 122,000 moose, which is nearly 44% of the state’s total population of an estimated 280,000 moose.

Three herds in the Durango area — E-30, E-31, and E-24 — all have critically low calf-to-cow ratios of 25-30 calves per 100 cows.

“These three all have herd management plans that were updated two years ago and we are comfortable with the population targets proposed in those plans,” Grigg said. “We are actively trying to increase these populations and essentially doing so by limiting archery hunting pressure and cow harvesting in these herds.”

Public comments will be accepted through December 20th and may be emailed to Grigg at [email protected]

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