In an effort to protect the mule deer population from vicious predators, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission officials plan to cripple the local populations of mountain lions and black bears. On December 14th, 2016, the decision to hunt and kill black bears and mountain lions in large numbers was passed unanimously by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners.
To protect the mule deer population, approximately 13 mountain lions and roughly 25 black bears currently residing in the Piceance Basin will be killed every year. The measure will take effect in the spring of 2017. While the CPW officials aim to eradicate some of the predators, other representatives of the aforementioned species that will be spared will be relocated to other sites. The CPW commissioners hope that more mule deer fawns will be able to survive in the future if there are fewer predators around.
While the method to increase the mule deer population seems extreme, the commissioners also take precautionary measures. Over the course of the next nine years, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission will conduct a study to keep track of the progress. The main focus will be on how the density of black bear and mountain lion populations affects the deer populations is Colorado. At the same time, the researchers will investigate whether the practice of culling the predators proves effective. The cost of the study is expected to revolve around $435,000 per year, and the costs of the wildlife management initiative will sum up to approximately $4.5 million.
While the Colorado Park and Wildlife commissioners stand by their decision, other scientists argue that Colorado’s wildlife management initiative contradicts its own science.
According to biologists Joel Berger, Kevin Crooks and Barry Noon from Colorado State University, the mule deer population decline is attributed to other factors rather than a large number of predators. Several possible causes could be disturbances caused by humans, loss of habitat, or lack of sufficient food, say the biologists.
At the same time, others argue that one major negative effect on the mule deer population is directly linked to oil and gas drilling and road constructions in the area. Nevertheless, the CPW commissioners disapproved of such claims, stating that previous investigations into the matter pointed directly to predators as the main cause for the drop in the mule deer population’s number.
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