Herd Management Plans for deer in CPW’s Southwest Region now open to public comment through Dec. 15
DURANGO, Colo. – The Southwest Region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife has published its proposed Herd Management Plans (HMPs) for 14 mule deer herds in southwest Colorado.
The public now has a window to provide comments on the proposed objectives set by CPW biologists. The draft plans are open to public review and comment through Dec. 15.
“Public feedback on our herd management plans is critical, as we manage these herds in the best interests of all Coloradans,” said CPW Senior Wildlife Biologist Jamin Grigg. “Our Herd Management Plans dictate how our deer herds in the region will be managed for a 10-year period, so it’s crucial for us to hear if people prefer specific alternatives or if their experience of what they see on the ground differs from that of our biologists.”
The new deer HMPs for the region were drafted after public engagement efforts were conducted throughout the summer.
Of note, CPW has proposed to combine a few Data Analysis Units (DAUs) into a single DAU. That includes combining D-31 and D-37 from the Sand Dunes area into a single DAU, now D-56. CPW would also like to combine Gunnison Basin DAUs D-21, D-22 and D-25 into a new single DAU, D-57.
“The purpose of this is to more effectively model and manage what is functionally one biological herd,” said Grigg. “Management can still vary by each Game Management Unit within the DAU. This is similar to what we have previously done with elk DAUs in the Gunnison Basin and elsewhere.”
The 14 herds included in the plan are the D-19 Uncompahgre Plateau, D-20 North Fork of Gunnison River, D-23 La Sal, D-24 Groundhog, D-26 Saguache, D-29 Mesa Verde, D-30 San Juan Basin, D-35 Lower Rio Grande, D-36 Upper Rio Grande, D-40 Cimarron, D-51 South Grand Mesa, D-52 Hermosa, D-56 Sand Dunes and D-57 Gunnison Basin deer herds.
CPW is proposing extensions of previously approved management objectives for the D-20, D-26, D-30, D-36, D-51, and D-52 herds.
New management objectives have been proposed for the D-19, D-23, D-24, D-29, D-35, D-40, D-56 and D-57 herds. Here is a closer look at the plans for those herds:
The last HMP for D-19, which includes Game Management Units 61 and 62 in parts of Delta, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties, was approved in 2006. The previous objective for this herd was a population of 36,000 to 38,000, but the 2022 post-hunt population estimate was 10,300. CPW’s preferred alternative is to decrease the current population objective to 12,000 to 15,000 deer.
“D-19 has been on a large declining trend since the early 1980s,” said CPW wildlife biologist Alyssa Kircher. “This population objective is higher than the 2022 population estimate and reflects the agency and stakeholder goal of increasing the number of deer on the landscape in this DAU.”
The last HMP for D-23, which includes Game Management Unit 60 along the Utah state line in parts of Montrose and Mesa counties, was approved in 2008. The previous objective for this herd was 2,500 to 3,000, but the 2022 post-hunt estimate was 1,500 deer. CPW’s preferred alternative is to decrease the current population objective to 1,500 to 1,800 deer.
“The majority of deer habitat within D-23 is winter range, and extended drought has resulted in poor winter forage conditions for deer throughout much of southwestern Colorado,” Kircher said. “One of the critical issues affecting D-23 is Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD was first detected in D-23 in 2018, and the current estimated prevalence rate is 21%. To mitigate the issue, CPW has increased buck licenses to decrease CWD spread since adult male deer are more likely to contract CWD. Proactive CWD management will be a crucial part of the D-23 Herd Management Plan.”
The last HMP for D-24, which includes GMUs 70, 71 and 711 in parts of Dolores, Montezuma, Montrose and San Miguel counties, was approved in 2014. The previous population objective was 15,000 to 19,000 deer, and the 2022 post-hunt estimate was 18,300. CPW’s preferred objective for this DAU is 19,000 to 23,000 deer.
“The deer population overall has been stable for the past 15 years following a previous decline,” said CPW biologist Brad Weinmeister. “Based on the herd performance over the past 10 years, minimal game damage issues and the desire for more deer on public lands, CPW recommends increasing the population objective.”
The last HMP for D-29, which includes GMUs 72 and 73 in parts of Montezuma and Dolores counties, was approved in 2014. The previous objective was 5,500 to 7,000 deer, and the 2022 post-hunt population estimate was 9,300. CPW’s new proposed population objective is 9,000 to 12,000 deer.
“Over the past 20 years, the deer population has been on an increasing trend,” Weinmeister said. “The majority of growth in the population has occurred on private lands, especially around the towns of Pleasant View and Cahone. The portion of the population that uses public lands hasn’t experienced the same increasing trend.”
Lower Rio Grande
The last HMP for D-35, which includes GMUs 80 and 81 in parts of Alamosa, Archuleta, Conejos, Mineral and Rio Grande counties, was approved in 2018. The previous objective was 5,500 to 6,500, and the post-hunt 2022 population estimate was 6,800 deer. CPW has proposed to increase the population objective to 6,000 to 8,000 for the next 10 years.
“Since 2018, the estimated population has continued on an upward trend,” said CPW biologist Brent Frankland. “The last time the herd was estimated to be greater than 6,000 animals was in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, with relatively sharp declines after both periods, the lowest estimate being at almost 4,000 mule deer in 1998. In 2023, CPW proposed antlerless licenses on public land to help address the growing population trend and stabilize the population within the proposed objective range. CPW has recently reassessed the population objective range and suggests broadening it to incorporate the trend more efficiently within management goals.”
The last HMP for D-40, which includes GMUs 64 and 65 in parts of Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose and Ouray counties, was approved in 2022. The previous objective was 6,500 to 8,500, and the post-hunt population estimate in 2022 was 5,900 deer. CPW aims to extend the current population objective but modify the current sex ratio objective from 25-30 bucks per 100 does to 22-27 bucks per 100 does.
“CPW recommends a lower buck ratio to better reflect current ratio trends within this herd,” Kircher said.
CPW has proposed to combine previous DAUs 31 and 37 into a single DAU retitled D-56. This includes GMUs 82 and 83 in parts of Alamosa and Saguache counties as well as all of Costilla County.
The previous objective for D-31 was 2,000 to 2,500 deer, and D-37 had an objective range of 2,300 to 3,000. CPW proposes to maintain a combined population objective of 4,300 to 5,500 deer for this herd.
“The reason to combine the two DAUs into one larger geographical DAU is for CPW to model and manage the mule deer more efficiently on the east side of the San Luis Valley,” Frankland said. “In the past, poor DAU boundaries and sporadic data collection resulted in potentially underestimating the population in GMU 83 (southern herd) and potentially overestimating the population in GMU 82 (northern herd).”
CPW has proposed to combine previous DAUs 21, 22 and 25 into a single DAU retitled D-57. This includes GMUs 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551 in portions of Gunnison, Hinsdale and Saguache counties.
The previous combined objective in these DAUs was 15,400 to 16,900 deer, and the 2022 post-hunt population estimate was 18,900. CPW has proposed an objective of 17,000 to 20,000 deer for the next 10 years.
“Big game hunter survey data indicates that hunters are generally satisfied with their deer hunting experience across the Gunnison Basin, but there is some desire to see a slight to moderate increase in the deer population,” Grigg said. “In the winter-driven system of the Gunnison Basin, hunter preferences and experience must be weighed against habitat considerations and the biological and socio-political carrying capacity of the landscape.”
The draft deer plans are open to public comment through Dec. 15. Please submit public comments to Grigg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments also will be accepted by mail addressed to:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Attn. Jamin Grigg
415 Turner Drive
Durango, CO 81303
To see all CPW Herd Management Plans, go to cpw.info/HerdManagementPlans.
Categories: Wildlife Conservation