Friday, 30 September 1994 17:00

Reprinted from OUTDOOR LIFE, October, 1994

Written by Outdoor Life, Oct 1994
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The 1992-93 winter-on the heels of a six-year drought in many states-triggered the mule deer decline, say wildlife officials in all affected states. But deeper-rooted factors led up to the collapse. Increasing numbers of predators played a hand, and politically driven, short-sighted management was also to blame.

Severe winter weather was likely the crowning blow, but predator management may have been the principal factor leading up to the collapse. Judd Cooney, a Colorado outfitter, trapper, and former conservation officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, doesn't buy the standard excuses put forth by the division.

"I know that bad winters can have a dramatic effect on deer," Cooney says. "But biologists either have their head in the sand or don't want to admit that predators are the real reason why we've had long-term deer declines. Coyotes, in particular, are killing enormous numbers of deer in Colorado as well as in other states."

Cooney says that coyotes routinely kill healthy deer, a fact confirmed by biologists. "As for the old wives tale that coyotes take only the sick and the weal -sure, they run the deer so hard that they get sick and weak, then they kill them. Coyote numbers are at an all-time high thanks to a 1972 ban on poisoning, and more recently, very low fur prices due to the activities of animal rights groups.

"As a former wildlife officer, 1 know that some biologists are aware of the coyote's impact on deer, but the wildlife department really can't do anything about it," he says. "To keep coyote numbers- down, you need to remove 70 percent of their populations consistently for five years."

Mountain lions take a large part of the deer herds as well, according to Cooney. "There are an estimated 2,000 cougars in Colorado," he says. "They kill an average of one deer per week, which translates to about 50 deer per cougar-a total annual kill of around 100,000 deer. Those facts are seldom, if ever, mentioned by the game department."

The bad news is that mule deer herds are still faced with the same problems. Extremely high predator numbers, heavy hunter pressure in some states, loss of habitat and politically motivated management will continue to chip away at mule deer numbers.

Ed. note. HUNTER S ALERT has been saying this for years and it couldn't have been said any better than by Jim Zumbo. Thank you, Jim, and OUTDOOR LIFE.

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 May 2010 13:23
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