Wild Colorado: Hunting aids in managing wildlife | SummitDaily.com

Wild Colorado: Hunting aids in managing wildlife

Paige Blankenbuehler
summit daily news
Special to the Daily/Eric Bergman, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Though hunting provides numerous Coloradans a unique recreational experience, wildlife managers depend on the sale of licenses to monitor and regulate the populations of big and small game throughout Summit County and surrounding hunting ranges.

“Wildlife management covers a wide range of issues,” explains Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We look at wildlife populations, winter range protection, human-wildlife conflicts, law enforcement and having hunting seasons in place to achieve our goals of regulating population sizes.”

The history of hunting in Colorado tells the story of declining populations and the need for the management of game.

The first wildlife managers worked to protect wildlife populations. In the late 1800s many game animals and birds were nearly wiped out by market hunters and pioneers who hunted to provide basic sustenance, according to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Many of the early wildlife conservationists were hunters, so much of the early effort to restore wildlife focused on game species.

In response to declining populations, conservation-minded hunters helped pass wildlife laws that restricted hunting and fishing.

Those laws set seasons, methods of take, bag and possession limits and other restrictions. With the help of such laws, populations of deer, elk, trout, wild turkeys, pronghorns, bighorn sheep and many other species were restored, according to Velarde.

“Now we can examine important biological issues such as over-population, health of winter range and diseases,” Velarde says.

By the 1950s, Colorado’s deer and elk herds were healthy and hunting for pronghorn and bighorn sheep was opened. Fishing improved as rivers and streams were cleaned up, and as hatchery techniques improved.

Starting in the late 1960s, scientists and the public recognized that the health of wildlife provided an indication of the overall health of the environment.

Biologists began to study various habitats to determine the importance of vegetation and landscapes to wildlife.

The agency’s professional biologists are continually engaged in numerous research projects that are designed to help maintain healthy wildlife populations.

“A lot of the work is done on the ground by wildlife officers and biologists who go out into the field to collect data,” Velarde said. “They go out at every time of year, day and night and in every kind of weather.”

License revenue in Colorado funds about 75 percent of the agency’s wildlife activities.

“In Colorado we have a great heritage of wildlife conservation and hunting tradition,” Velarde says, “At Colorado Parks and Wildlife we are working to make sure that continues.”

Wildlife managers are urging for hunters to apply for extra available permits this hunting season.

Eager wing shooters will take to the field starting today for the two-month dove season. Abundant dove populations combined with 185,000 acres of walk-in access offer opportunities for early season practice for upland hunters and dogs.

Seasons for dusky grouse and chukar partridge also open today and run into November. For Colorado waterfowlers, the early teal season runs Sept. 8-16.

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