Plan to reduce predators in bid to boost mule deer numbers under fire in Colorado

The number of licenses available for 2017 includes 2,750 for antlered mule deer, an increase of 200 from last year; 1,022 for muzzleloader, an increase of 94 from last year; and 245 restricted youth antlered mule deer, an increase of 20 from last year.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — A conservation group is challenging Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s plans to reduce predator numbers outside Rifle and in the Upper Arkansas River Valley in order to help mule deer populations improve.

WildEarth Guardians said Friday it has sued the agency and the commission that oversees it, The Daily Sentinel reported.

“CPW’s plans are not grounded in sound science, violate Colorado’s Constitution, and are neither supported by the vast majority of Coloradans nor in the public interest,” Stuart Wilcox, staff attorney for WildEarth Guardians, said in a news release. “The Parks and Wildlife Commission’s disdain for the public’s will and the opinions of dozens of our country’s leading scientists is hugely concerning.”

The commission approved the two studies in December. They are scheduled to begin this year. WildEarth Guardians says the agency received more than 6,500 public comments opposing them.

The agency plans to contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to have it remove up to 15 mountain lions and 25 bears a year on 500 square miles of the Roan Plateau over three years to see if it boosts fawn survival rates. Hounds and nonlethal traps and snaring will be employed, with captive animals being shot, except in the case of captive families, which will be relocated.

The agency plans to use increased sport hunting of lions in the Upper Arkansas in a study that will last nine years.

The studies will cost about $4.5 million.

CPW researchers have studied oil and gas development in the Piceance Basin and concluded it’s not limiting deer numbers. They say adult does are in good condition, and they want to explore whether predation may be keeping too many fawns from reaching adulthood.

Some scientists and scholars have spoken out against the projects, but the agency says past research is far from conclusive and the research is warranted. The project has the support of some sportsmen but is opposed by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.

CPW spokeswoman Lauren Truitt said Friday the agency hasn’t yet been served with the complaint and declined comment.

The suit is seeking an injunction preventing the projects from going forward and an order finding them unlawful and setting them aside.


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