Colorado’s mule deer are an icon of the American West. They are cherished for wildlife watching and the economic benefit they provide to local communities through big-game hunting. However, recent declines in mule deer populations have raised concerns among Colorado residents, hunters and wildlife managers.
A 2012 Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) population study showed that there are an estimated 408,000 mule deer in Colorado — a number that is 22 to 29 percent below CPW’s statewide population goal of 525,000 to 575,000 animals. Additionally, the decline of mule deer has occurred almost entirely on Colorado’s Western Slope with populations in some areas down more than 50 percent of their historic numbers.
This spring, CPW embarked on an extensive process to bring together sportsmen, landowners, outfitters, biologists, wildlife managers, government agencies, local elected officials and other interest groups to address declining mule deer populations. On behalf of CPW, The Keystone Center facilitated seven public meetings, including two on Colorado’s Front Range and five on the West Slope, to discuss issues facing mule deer and to develop a West Slope Mule Deer Strategy.
CPW will release a draft of the West Slope Mule Strategy this August. In addition, CPW and The Keystone Center are hosting a West Slope Mule Deer Summit Aug. 9., where wildlife managers will present the Strategy and seek further input from hunters and local residents.
CPW and the Keystone Center invite sportsmen to attend this important event to help identify shared strategies to ensure that one of Colorado’s most cherished species, the mule deer, remains abundant for future generations.