Letter: Human impact on wildlife
Carl Stude’s letter opposing trail closures for critical wildlife habitat is fundamentally flawed. Funding for managing Colorado’s abundant wildlife that millions of non-hunters also enjoy comes strictly from hunting license sales. The Department of Parks and Wildlife uses no general funds (public tax dollars) for its wildlife mission.
The personal big game encounters Mr. Stude describes are typical. Unfortunately, they do not tell the whole story. Ask any hunter who stalks dark timber about the number of animals that we “normal recreationists” miss seeing in hiking or biking and we get a lesson in our own ignorance. Just because we don’t witness them running doesn’t mean we haven’t spooked them.
Mr. Stude’s last paragraphs are equally ignorant of facts. It is not the oldest and weakest animals that die because of human disturbance; it is the youngest and weakest. Why? Contrary to what Mr. Stude may think, he can pass within 50 feet of a cow elk and her calf, and, although he doesn’t see it, enough human disturbances cause that cow to abandon the calf, leaving it for coyote bait. Not the warm and fuzzy picture we like to envision.
The calf/cow ratio for elk in the Roaring Fork Valley has fallen from 0.585 in the 1980s down to 0.337 for the last three years. A ratio of 0.5 is necessary just to maintain our local herd. In conferring with our local wildlife professionals, I’m told that, along with habitat loss from housing, skyrocketing human recreational activity locally has jeopardized the survival rate for elk calves and mule deer fawns.
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Perversely, the BLM just changed its mechanized closure opening date of the Crown from May 1 to April 15. Hay Park on the flank of Mount Sopris has no closure dates for mechanized at all. Both areas are critical for elk calving. Whether for hunting or for personal viewing pleasure, all us humans should be aware of our impact on wildlife. A few seasonal closures to allow animals to raise their young to a sufficiently strong age is a small price to pay for healthy big game herds.
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