Best of the herd

Northwest Colorado boasts largest elk population in the state

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Northwest Colorado has the largest elk herd in Colorado and probably the nation, drawing hunters to the area in droves.

The state relies on hunters to keep that population at a manageable size.

Hunters in the area have killed record number of elk in the past three years.

Northwest Colorado supports three herds of elk. The first herd roams north of U.S. Highway 40 almost to the Utah border and includes as many as 17,000 elk. The second herd roams a large geographical area that includes the Flat Tops, Yampa, Toponas, Meeker and on to Glenwood Springs. There are 41,000 elk in that herd. The third herd supports 16,000 elk that roam along the Continental Divide north of Craig.

The Northwest Colorado elk total is almost a third of the Colorado state total of 275,000 animals.

"Because we do have so many elk, we encourage hunters to kill cows, since they are the ones who produce offspring," said Susan Werner, area wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. This year, the Colorado Division of Wildlife is limiting the number of bull elk licenses it issues to get hunters to kill more cow elk.

Although elk are the major draw for hunters in this area, licenses also are available for a variety of other big game, including deer, antelope, bear and mountain lion.

There are a few deer licenses left, Werner said.

There are three herds of deer in the area, and deer hunting is expected to be good this year.

"We had a mild winter last year," Werner said. "The survival rate was high."

For more information about hunting big game in Colorado, visit the Colorado Division of Wildlife Web site at www.wildlife.state.co.us.

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