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State Agency Under Fire for Plan to Kill Bears, Cougars

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is proposing killing natural predators, including cougars, to increase deer populations. (Pixabay)
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is proposing killing natural predators, including cougars, to increase deer populations. (Pixabay)
December 13, 2016

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife's proposal to boost declining mule deer numbers by killing cougars and black bears in two segments of the Piceance Basin is coming under fire from wildlife conservationists. Commissioners are meeting in Fort Collins Wednesday to vote on the plan.

Andrea Santarsiere, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said numerous studies have shown removing natural predators from the landscape isn't the answer.

"Deer populations in Colorado are largely suffering from habitat fragmentation and degradation, especially a lack of food and nutrition on their winter range," she said.

She said the agency should build on successful efforts to bolster herds by removing invasive plants and reseeding native plants. Officials disagree, saying deer are getting enough winter food, but populations remain low because newborns are being killed by predators, and roughly 25 percent fewer fawns are reaching adulthood.

Bethany Cotton, the wildlife program director with Wild Earth Guardians, said the agency itself has acknowledged that human activity and loss of habitat due to oil and gas development are the primary threat to mule deer survival rates.

"We're asking the agency to concentrate state resources on addressing those impacts and mitigating that, rather than scapegoating bears and cougars," Cotton said.

Andrew Currie, a business investor and outdoor enthusiast, plans to attend Wednesday's meeting. He's hoping the agency will agree to start over and work with stakeholders to find a better solution.

"We can do it in a way that's not lethal to cougars and bears," he said. "And do it in a way that meets the goals of the hunters, outfitters and ranchers, and also the other wildlife enthusiasts."

The commission is set to meet at 8:30 A.M. at the Fort Collins Marriott on Horsetooth Road.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO