Wildlife Federation to discuss deer decline in Steamboat, Craig


If you go

What: Biologists working for National Wildlife Federation discuss report on 30-year decline among pronghorn and mule deer populations

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library

Cost: Free

— A team of wildlife biologists hired by the National Wildlife Federation doesn’t know exactly why populations of pronghorn and mule deer are declining in our area. However, they are concerned enough about the future of the range where the “deer and the antelope play” that they are coming to Steamboat Springs and Craig on Thursday and Friday to host public meetings.

“If we are to maintain our native deer and pronghorn populations and our hunting traditions, land managers and wildlife agencies need to address the landscape-wide impacts that undermine the habitat vitality wildlife relies on,’’ said Steve Torbit, a wildlife biologist and the National Wildlife Federation’s regional executive director.

The report issued by Torbit’s organization states that the numbers of the animals have been in decline in areas straddling the Wyoming-Colorado border, including northern Routt County and North Park on the east side of the Park Range from Steamboat Springs.

Veteran wildlife biologist John Ellenberger, who had a lengthy career with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Gene Byrne produced the report.

The National Wildlife Federation is suggesting that an expected increase in oil and gas exploration could make the situation worse for the herds.

Ellenberger told the Steamboat Today that the report did not identify a specific causal relationship between oil and gas exploration (or other human activities) and the degradation of the herds. Nor was that his purpose.

Instead, he and Byrne reviewed decades of research on the animals to confirm long-term populations trends

“The declines are occurring due to a multitude of issues,” Ellenberger said. “Which of them to blame, we don’t know. But we’re finding that the populations are vulnerable.”

The meetings in Northwest Colorado — in Steamboat on Thursday and in Craig on Friday — can be expected to look closely at the relationships among the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish and the federal Bureau of Land Management.

A Q-and-A paper prepared by the Wildlife Federation points out that although the Wyoming and Colorado wildlife managers share information about the herds, the BLM arrives at its own land management decisions (including oil and gas leasing) that ultimately affect the animals.

Ellenberger said human activities have gradually fragmented the deer and pronghorn range during the last three decades.

“You go to the next step, with what’s planned in the area (in terms of energy exploration) and by inference you can expect significant impacts on habitat,” he said.

He said he’s concerned that without increased emphasis on wildlife habitat, the animals could be pushed beyond a point from which they cannot recover.

“Any further habitat will just make it worse and reduce hunting opportunities,” Ellenberger said. “It’s a wake-up call to sportsmen and the general public. We need to take care of the habitat.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com


Fred Duckels 5 years, 7 months ago

Well, the sage grouse has a paralell partner in the crusade to stop drilling for oil an gas. I suspect that this environmental groups motive is to use the situation as a political tool to continue the hoax exposed in global warming. When cap and trade fell flat their stated next step was thru biodiversity to get around the lack of public support. Some nice research grants may also be in offing.


exduffer 5 years, 7 months ago

Maybe the NWF could do something about the spring weather we have had over the past few years. I wonder if they took into account the late spring snowstorms and cold and how it effects the survival rate of the newborns.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 7 months ago

Tom, Sorry to be harsh, but you actually wrote a whole article regarding a study showing a decline in animal populations and yet FAILED TO MENTION ANY OF THE NUMBERS! So the article fails completely to characterize whether it is a severe drop suggesting an urgent problem, a modest decline worthy of concern or a slight drop.

Well, someone could also look at the growth of guest ranches and thus suggest that guest ranches are causing the decline (and so should not be allowed). And a overt cynic could note the increase in the national debt as an example of the stupidity of noting parallel trends and presuming there is a cause and effect. Because who knows, maybe it isn't the increase in the national debt that is causing the decline of the deer population, maybe the decline in the deer population is causing the increase in the national debt.

Which is why reputable scientists will use a study that observes a trend to contemplate hypothesis on what is the cause and then use that to design further studies to attempt to find what might be the cause of that trend.


exduffer 5 years, 7 months ago

Or it could be those wonderful reflectors installed on parts of 40 to keep the deer off the road.


Fred Duckels 5 years, 7 months ago

Years ago the herbivores were plentiful. One theory that I have, is that the cyanide gun killing of carnivores eliminaterd predators. Since that time the herds have gradually decreased. Deer and myriads of small game flourished during this time. The bounty during that time on jack rabbits was fifty cents a head in Craig, put in boxcars and sold to my uncle in Aurora for mink food. This harvesting never seemed to put a dent in the population.


gettinold 5 years, 7 months ago

I know whats hapening to the deer. Its me. They Keep running out in front of my car.


ybul 5 years, 7 months ago

My thoughts exactly on the pronghorn. The numbers I saw in moffat county on my ranch was negligible 10 years ago now their numbers are in the hundreds if not thousands.

Deer, yep they seem to have declined in numbers but they also had a huge die off because of the winter three years ago. But then lets not think back lets just find data that correlates to our desired presentation, that man is causing the problem.


Angie Robinson 5 years, 7 months ago

I don't think we should expect populations to stay exactly the same. They fluctuate. Rabbit numbers are down considerably this year, but eagles have been plentiful. Nature will work things out. Furthermore, we let towns and cities keep growing into deer and antelope habitat and no one says much. But when it comes to the controversial topic of oil and gas exploration, all of the sudden people really care about the impact.


exduffer 5 years, 7 months ago

Reminds me of the first computer game I played in high school science class. You were given 1 square mile of land, you chose the density of grasshoppers, snakes and hawks. The computer forecast the weather. You hit the enter key and the computer started printing out the densities in your ecosystem as time went by. I don't think anyone's made it past 15 years before theirs collapsed.


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.