An environmental group known as WildEarth Guardians has sued the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department (CPW) as well as the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission over a plan to remove mountain lions and black bears to support struggling mule deer populations.
Home to one of the best-documented mule deer populations in North America, Colorado’s Piceance Basin has been the focus of monitoring efforts since the late 1940’s. Extracting decade’s worth of population density data from the region, the scientific analysis lead wildlife officials in Colorado to propose a plan that would allow state wildlife officials to capture and kill 10-15 mountain lions and 25 black bears each year.
The plan, backed by scientific research was unanimously approved during a public comment and discussion session in December.
Grasping at straws, attorneys for the environmental agency filed a lawsuit in court on January 18th, citing that “CPW’s plans are not grounded in sound science, violate Colorado’s Constitution, and are neither supported by the vast majority of Coloradans nor in the public interest…”
Leaning on Colorado’s existing anti-trapping laws, the organization is implying that since the CPW plans on utilizing the services of Wildlife Services, who will allegedly trap and shoot the animals in an illegal fashion. Disputing the science conducted over nearly 60 years by CWP, wildlife program director with WildEarth Guardians Bethany Cotton is calling on CWP to rethink its strategy.
“We call on CPW to withdraw the plans, work with leading biologists to understand the existing science on the impacts of predation by carnivores to mule deer, and focus on addressing the main threats to mule deer populations including rampant fossil fuel development and habitat loss,” said Bethany Cotton. “We also call on the Governor to appoint Commissioners who are committed to employing the best available science and who represent the vast majority of Coloradans who oppose cruel trapping and want the full compliment of native species, including bears and mountain lions, on the landscape.”
The Department’s research does coincide with some of the statements made by WildEarth Guardians, in that mule deer populations are in fact, on the rise since 2008. What the organization is failing to mention in their statement is the fact that despite this encouraging data, along with healthy winter fawn survival, fawn recruitment is declining in a major way.
Fawn recruitment in the Piceance Basin has declined from upwards of 73 fawns/100 does to 49 fawns/100 does or a decrease of roughly 34 percent. This data alone is a significant indication that the mule deer in the Basin are no longer habitat limited on winter range; they are being negatively impacted by predation in the region.
At last check, CPW said it had not yet seen the lawsuit and will not comment on matters related to on-going litigation.