The Colorado Division of Wildlife has been providing columns for the Community Agriculture Alliance for several years. The task of writing the columns has traditionally fallen to Area Wildlife Manager Susan Werner, but she retired at the end of April. I just want to start off my temporary column-writing stint by acknowledging the great job that Susan did in her nearly 10 years at the helm of the Division's Steamboat Springs office. We hope she enjoys every minute of her retirement. Susan worked closely with the agricultural community and while we'll never replace Susan, DOW is committed to making sure that the next area wildlife manager understands the important role that farming and ranching play in the economy, heritage and wildlife-sustainability of Routt County.
In other DOW news, we are currently working on analyzing the latest population estimates for Colorado deer and elk herds. One item of interest for farmers and ranchers in the area is an extensive survey of the Bears Ears elk herd that was conducted earlier this year. This herd is the second largest in the state and ranges the area from north of Steamboat Springs west to the sage flats west of Craig.
For several years, ranchers in the Bears Ears area have expressed concerns about the large number of elk and the damage these animals can do to fencing and haystacks. To address landowner concerns and to aid herd health, wildlife managers in the past five years have increased available licenses in the unit. That trend will continue this year with about 2,000 more cow elk licenses offered than in 2006.
Because of some unique herd dynamics, the Bears Ears elk population is very difficult to effectively estimate. So this past winter, biologists and district wildlife managers for the DOW conducted the most extensive air survey of elk to date in the Bears Ears. The survey found that elk numbers remain high in the area and license numbers will likely remain high for several more years. Additionally, the DOW will once again be working with the local communities to rewrite the unit management plans.
Later this summer, the DOW will hold public meetings in Craig and Steamboat Springs to provide information on the survey findings and get community input on the population objectives. These meetings are especially important for farmers, ranchers, outfitters and sportsmen who are affected by and are our partners in these population decisions. Watch the local papers for the upcoming public meetings. We hope you can attend.
In closing, I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a reminder about all the spring and summer wildlife issues that are critically important to everyone living in the Colorado high country. Bears are back and the usual reminders about taking care of trash, not leaving out pet food and cleaning barbecue grills apply just as much on farms and ranches as they do in town. Livestock owners are also reminded to report any bear or lion related livestock losses as soon as possible. Hopefully, Mother Nature will provide plentiful berry and acorn crops and bears won't need to hunt too much for food.
Hampton is a public information specialist for the Division of Wildlife.