Don’t kill preda­tors; pro­tect habi­tat

The Denver Post - - OPNION - By John Land Le Coq John Land Le Coq is CEO of Fish­pond, Inc.

As an out­door recre­ation busi­ness owner with a brand that is de­fined by the val­ues and health of our nat­u­ral places, I am deeply dis­turbed by two pro­posed stud­ies by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to kill black bears and moun­tain lions in des­ig­nated ar­eas to see if mule deer fawn sur­vival rates in­crease.

Mule deer de­cline is not iso­lated to Colorado, the de­cline is hap­pen­ing across the West.

We al­ready know that killing na­tive car­ni­vores will not in­crease mule deer pop­u­la­tions. The best avail­able science has shown us that killing car­ni­vores to in­crease mule deer pop­u­la­tions is un­likely to pro­duce pos­i­tive re­sults. Ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous sources (in­clud­ing stud­ies done by CPW) the key to sur­vival is the pro­tec­tion of breed­ing fe­males, ac­cess to suit­able habi­tat — es­pe­cially in the winter, and ac­cess to ad­e­quate nu­tri­tion. In fact, black bears are 90 per­cent veg­e­tar­ian and only oc­ca­sion­ally and op­por­tunis­ti­cally prey on un­gu­lates.

It is well un­der­stood that CPW has a short­fall of fund­ing and that in­creas­ing deer pop­u­la­tions could re­sult in more hunt­ing li­cense rev­enue. How­ever, to pro­pose a plan that would kill moun­tain lions and bears through in­creased tro­phy-hunt­ing li­censes, and by con­tract­ing some of the killing to a fed­eral pro­gram that kills an av­er­age of more than 3.2 mil­lion an­i­mals ev­ery year, we em­brace an ethic that sends the wrong mes­sage of how Colorado val­ues wildlife. It sends the mes­sage that our na­tive species are merely a re­source for the de­part­ment.

The real prob­lems our mule deer face are not from na­tive car­ni­vores, but from the con­tin­u­ous habi­tat loss due to en­croach­ment from in­creased hu­man ac­tiv­ity. Any­one who lives in Colorado can see and feel the in­creased con­ges­tion on our high­ways and the loss of our once open lands that are dis­ap­pear­ing with new homes and ur­ban sprawl.

We need to es­tab­lish mi­gra­tion cor­ri­dors that are pro­tected habi­tats, while plac­ing rea­son­able lim­its on new res­i­den­tial and en­ergy de­vel­op­ment that de­stroys and frag­ments vi­tal wildlife habi­tat.

Ad­di­tion­ally, we need new thought­ful and in­no­va­tive ideas to broaden CPW’s fund­ing base be­yond tra­di­tional hunt­ing and fish­ing dol­lars.

This month our ap­pointed wildlife com­mis­sion­ers will de­cide on these mis­guided and sci­en­tif­i­cally un­founded pro­pos­als. You can email the Com­mis­sion at dnr_cp­w­com­mi­sion@state.co.us or at­tend the pub­lic meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, De­cem­ber 14th at the Fort Collins Mar­riott, 350 East Horse­tooth Road, Fort Collins from 8:30 AM to 12:45 PM.

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