Drought, disease affect hunting | SummitDaily.com

Drought, disease affect hunting

SUMMIT COUNTY – In anticipation of this summer’s drought affecting deer and elk herds, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) has released additional hunting licenses for the coming big game rifle season.

Herds and drought

According to Kirk Oldham, CDOW district wildlife manager in Summit County, less food is available for deer and elk because of the drought. As a result, the animals are moving to lower elevations and winter forage areas earlier this year, and wildlife officials are concerned the herds will deplete their food sources before spring.

In Summit County, Oldham said, only mountain lions prey on deer and elk. As a result, hunting is the primary tool wildlife officials use to manage deer and elk populations.

CDOW issues hunting licenses for specific areas within Colorado counties. This year, the agency has approved an additional 490 drought licenses for elk in three areas within Summit County and an additional 460 drought deer licenses for areas that encompass almost all of Summit and Grand counties.

Recent snows in the mountains might help hunters by pushing herds to lower elevations earlier than normal.

But the drought might hinder hunters as well, Oldham said. Many animals spend winters foraging on private land, in subdivisions and within town boundaries – where they can be hunted with the permission of the landowner only if town and county regulations do not prohibit it.

“The concern is that animals will move onto private land much earlier,” Oldham said. “If that happens really early, especially late October and early November, it will make it very difficult for hunters to get an animal.”

Sunday was the last day of archery season, and Sept. 22 ended the muzzle-loading season for big game. There is a two-week respite for deer and elk before the start of big game rifle seasons.

Chronic wasting disease confirmed

On Friday, CDOW officials announced that the first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been confirmed in Summit County. The disease was discovered in an elk killed just west of Green Mountain Reservoir.

The wild elk was the second of two in western Colorado to test positive for the disease.

Testing for CWD is mandatory in northeastern Colorado and voluntary in the rest of the state, including Summit County.

As of Thursday, before the discovery of the Summit County case, CDOW reported that almost 700 deer and elk had been submitted for testing. Of more than 400 animals tested, only six had tested positive for the disease by Thursday.

CDOW officials said hunters should use gloves when handling carcasses and should avoid killing sick animals.

“Anytime you’re handling any sort of wildlife, it’s always good to wear gloves,” Oldham said. “So we certainly encourage hunters to wear gloves when they’re field-dressing their animals. We also ask them to avoid cutting through the spinal column – outside of severing the head off – and avoid contact with brain tissue.”

A deer or elk suffering from CWD “will look emaciated, may be foaming at the mouth, might be walking with its head lowered and may spend a large amount of time by itself and near roadways,” Oldham said. “The big thing is the emaciated look, frothing and holding its head low.”

Hunters who wish to have animals tested may do so through CDOW and participating veterinarians. No veterinarians in Summit County are testing for the disease, Oldham said, but hunters can go to the CDOW service center in Hot Sulphur Springs or to Stephen Colin, DVM, in Eagle County.

Testing not only will let hunters know whether or not an animal was infected, but it also will help CDOW track the disease, Oldham said.

Voluntary testing costs $17, and hunters should keep the head cool before turning it in for testing – spoiled samples cannot be tested accurately.

Sharing land

Beginning Oct. 12 – the start of four big game rifle seasons – recreationists such as hikers and mountain bikers will share the same lands as hunters.

Though the chance of injury of a non-hunter by a hunter is minimal, Oldham suggests non-hunters wear bright colors when recreating on any public lands. Hunting is allowed on all National Forest land in Summit County, Oldham said, including areas such as the Frisco peninsula, which are popular with hikers and mountain bikers.

Big Game Rifle Seasons

? Oct. 12-16: First

season, elk

? Oct. 19-25: Deer and elk

? Nov. 2-8: Deer and elk

? Nov. 9-13: Deer and elk

? Nov. 23 – Dec. 1: Late season

Goose and Duck Season in Summit County

? Goose: Sept. 28 – Oct. 8

? Duck: Sept. 28 – Oct. 13

Non-hunters recreating on public lands are advised to wear bright clothing

during hunting season. For more information about hunting seasons, visit the CDOW Web site at http://www.wildlife.state.co.us.

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