By Matt Kroschel
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Elk herds in the Eagle Valley are disappearing.
They aren’t moving elsewhere, wildlife managers say they are simply disappearing at a troubling rate. And evidence points to the stress of more people and traffic combined with changing weather patterns as factors in this decline.
Perry Will with Colorado Parks & Wildlife says it’s not just more people living in what was once prime elk habitat, it’s more people venturing deeper into the backcountry all year long. Elk just don’t have the solitude they need any longer.
“This is a major concern for us, with no easy solutions,” Will told CBS4 Friday.
The statistics are sobering. In one decade, half of Eagle County’s elk population vanished. From Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon — since 2007’s count by CPW, who use helicopters to check herd sizes in the winter — the numbers are down 50 percent.
People, not intentionally, are to blame.
Wildlife officers are stepping up education programs. And have issued seasonal closures in some remaining elk habitat. But it’s unlikely the herd will grow back to the size it was in 2007 anytime soon.
CPW previously issued about 2,000 hunting tags for the area. This year they are allowing 200.
“It’s not like the elk are moving somewhere else, they are just dying off,” Will added.
Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.