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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

Wildlife commission to vote on plan to kill predators

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Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) commission meets Wednesday to decide whether to kill more mountain lions and black bears near Rifle.

Biologists with CPW said there are not enough mule deer in the Piceance Basin, and mountain lions and black bears might be to blame. The idea is that those predators may be eating too many young fawns, so the agency has plans to kill up to 15 mountain lions and 25 black bears in a “predator control study” this spring.

 
But many independent scientists, including more than 20 who submitted a letter to the agency objecting to the experiment, said CPW’s science is flawed and the design of this experiment is weak.

 
Basalt resident Bill Kane sits on CPW’s 11-member commission, which meets tomorrow morning in Fort Collins to vote on whether to proceed with the plans. He said the decline in the mule deer population dates back to around 2008.

 
“Which was a really stressful time for mule deer in the Piceance Basin,” Kane said.

 
Kane sites oil and gas development and exploration, extremely cold winters and drought conditions in the summer as all playing a role in the decline of deer numbers.

 
Given such a variety of factors, Kane said citizens have asked if there are other methods of boosting the deer populations that don’t involve the killing of predators, but that the experiment could prove valuable.

 
“If that is done and the conclusion is that it has absolutely no effect on fawn survival rate, this could be really beneficial science for all of our neighboring states,” Kane said.

Click here to find the meeting agenda and stream audio.

Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.
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