Elk NetworkElk Numbers Dwindling in West-Central Colorado

General | June 19, 2018

Colorado has the largest elk population in the United States but the population in Eagle County, located in the west-central part of the state, is shrinking.

“The numbers we have counted have dropped some 50 (percent) to 60 percent in the last 10 years,” Craig Wescoatt, wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), told Vail Daily. “We are not seeing the animals migrate to another area or permanently move somewhere else. They are just dead and gone.”

According to the report, CPW uses information gathered from aerial counts, hunter harvests and winter condition data to create a computer model that determines a population estimate. The 2002 population estimate was 10,600 animals compared to 6,554 elk in 2016. Additionally, CPW data shows elk calf recruitment shrunk from 50 calves per 100 cows previously to 34 calves per 100 cows.

CPW indicates more people building more houses, general human disruption, and an increase in predators are the biggest factors leading to shrinking elk numbers.

“People are out there all the time any more,” Bill Andree, CPW wildlife manager, told Vail Daily. “There are people snowshoeing by moonlight and training for ultramarathons. There is no time period when the animals don’t have to compete with humans for habitat.”

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(Photo source: Mike Blevins)