Colorado 'Predator Control': Killing Lions And Bears To Save Mule-Deer

By Christie Abagon , Dec 18, 2016 06:01 PM EST

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) plans to kill one to two dozen mountain lions and black bears a year inorder to increase the mule-deer population in the north-western Piceance Basin over the next three years.  This strategy would cost about $4.5 million.

Fewer Predators Equals More Fawns

The state's plan would include the US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to use hounds, nonlethal traps, and snares to catch 15 mountain lions and 25 bears from around the Arkansas River Valley.  Some animals would be trapped together and would be relocated and others will be euthanized.  CPW said that with fewer predators, more fawns will survive.

Commissioner Chris Castilian said: "We are trying to understand what contributes to it.  Our main motivation is to get to the bottom of the deer declines we've seen.... Everybody is concerned about the mule deer population. We need to be very sensitive as stewards of that. More science is always better."

Activists Argue That Predators Are Already Too Few In Number

However, activist groups are not happy with this move to protect the mule-deer population at all.  They argued that big predators like mountain lions and bears are too few in number and that their population may not be able to bounce back if so many are killed. 

Colorado State University doubts CPW's move because just last year, about 34,000 mule deer were hunted and killed - legally.  "We find it surprising that CPW's own research clearly indicated that the most likely limiting factors for mule deer are food limitation, habitat loss and human-induced disturbance - not predators," Colorado State biologists said in a letter.

Deer population in Colorado has fallen 110,000 short of the 560,000 deer that wildlife managers deem optimal, Denver Post said.  CPW did not deny that a lot of factors cause the increase of deer deaths, but said that "Predator Control" is simply to test a hypothesis to see if it works. 

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