Last week, at the Lone Cone Library in Norwood, representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) held a public meeting to discuss wildlife, specifically elk and mountain lion populations in the local area. 

At the meeting, representatives said the local elk population has been declining in recent years. In the past, this decline has resulted in fewer elk tags and the removal of later hunting seasons. Currently, there are low calf-to-cow ratios, and for unknown reasons. The data indicates a 70:100 ratio in more northern parts of the state; in southwestern Colorado, the ratios are 17:100. 

So far, CPW has yet to announce the exact restrictions for this year’s elk hunting season, but representatives said at the meeting people can expect similar consequences due to the declining numbers: Hunters should plan for there to be fewer elk tags available this year than in previous years.

Representatives said they’ve been searching for the causes of the declining elk numbers. Increased human traffic is likely damaging habitats, and they said hunting could also be causing stress during the wildlife breeding season. 

However, CPW representatives said they don’t believe these factors are the root cause of the waning elk numbers. 

Now, they are working to identify the source of issues, so that the local elk population can rebound. Their goal is to have an elk population increase of 20 to 25 percent over the next few years. 

During the meeting, many locals in attendance expressed concern about the introduction of wolves into the Norwood area. Some people believe that the reintroduction of wolves will cause harm to already declining elk numbers. (Ranchers, too, have been voicing their concerns about an increased number of wolves and fear losing their livestock.)

At the same time, some in the crowd inquired about other wildlife predators and their population numbers in the local area. They asked about the effects of those predators on elk and deer.

CPW representatives confirmed that there has been a large increase in the bear population over the past 30 years. Representatives admitted the growing bear numbers could be a possible cause for the declining elk numbers. As a result, there could be more bear tags available this upcoming season for hunters.

Additionally, the local mountain lion population was discussed. CPW has stated that their goal is “to manage toward a stable or increasing lion population,” according to its website.

Representatives at the meeting explained that there will be changes this year to the way that mountain lion tags are regulated.

Rather than having each individual unit in the state have restrictions on mountain lion hunting, there will now be a few larger regions that will restrict tags. In the past, people have harvested fewer lions than have been available because of the differences in the hunting units. The change could allow hunters to harvest more lions than they previously could. 

Still, CPW said the annual mortality rate of mountain lions must not exceed 17 percent, and the percent of adult females harvested must not exceed 22 percent.     

CPW closely monitors wildlife populations annually.