2020 Status Report: Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors

This report illustrates the current state of Colorado’s big game herds, their habitat, and the challenges they face, as well as lays the groundwork for future recommendations.
report cover
This recently completed report is now available: 2020 Status Report: Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors.  

After months of hard work by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the engagement of more than 40 conservation partners, a new status report on Colorado’s big game winter range and migration corridors has been released that will inform future efforts to protect this invaluable natural resource.

Governor Jared Polis directed both Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to work cooperatively to conserve Colorado’s valuable big game resources through executive order. This executive order, Conserving Colorado’s Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors, directed Colorado Parks and Wildlife to compile a big game status report that will guide both agencies, as well as its partners, to collectively improve the conservation of big game winter range and migration corridors.

“This report provides a strong foundation as we turn our attention to crafting a strategy for conserving and restoring seasonal wildlife habitat and migration corridors across the state,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s detailed assessment illustrates the challenges our big game herds face in areas where development, environmental, recreation, and other pressures are evident, but it also points to opportunities for reducing habitat fragmentation and sustaining our big game populations down the road.” 

The report contains the current state of knowledge concerning Colorado’s big game herds and the challenges they face. It features CPW’s compilation of the best-available science on our state’s big game populations, including population status and trends, monitoring and inventory methods, seasonal habitats and migration corridors, and conservation threats and actions.

The report also outlines current research and data gaps associated with Colorado’s big game winter range and migration corridors. CPW’s report concludes with recommendations on a path forward to conserve these valuable habitats and populations.

“The Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridor Report is a testament to the great work CPW does in managing our state’s big game herds,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. “This document will provide information for all CPW personnel, other government agencies, outside stakeholders, and all of Colorado as we continue to manage Colorado’s big game herds and ensure their long-term viability in this great state.”

CPW Forest Habitat Coordinator Casey Cooley played an instrumental role in coordinating with multiple CPW departments and more than 40 conservation partners to create this report.

“Our deer and elk herds are an important part of Colorado’s outdoor identity; because of the amount of work CPW puts in conserving wildlife, we have really high-quality herds – in fact, we manage the largest elk herds in North America. We are committed to protecting these animals by maintaining habitat connectivity and making sure we’re removing migration barriers that may currently exist,” Cooley said. “The report highlights CPW’s long-term goals: habitat protection and winter range restoration. This report is a tool that will help us move forward in conserving big game and their habitats.”

This report illustrates the current state of Colorado’s big game herds, their habitat and the challenges they face, and lays the groundwork for future policy, regulatory and legislative recommendations to ensure the ongoing conservation of seasonal big game habitat and migration corridors.


Travis Duncan is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Denver. Travis has lived in Colorado nearly 20 years and loves the outdoors. If you have a question, please email him at travis.duncan@state.co.us

22 Responses

  1. I requested information on smallmouth black bass fishing opportunities in the Denver Metro-area, a few weeks ago, but never received a reply. Could someone please answer the request for more information on the smallmouth black bass fishing opportunities within the Denver area?

    1. Boulder creek East of Bouder is loaded with smallies, mostly on private property, but it is not hard to obtain permission to fish.

  2. Largemouth aka Black Bass Cherry Creek Reservoir or Quincy Reservoir. Smallmouth Bass, Chatfield Reservoir

  3. Read the 2020 Status Report but it does not give us the definition of the D & E units. I read D21, D25 and D26 was the Gunnison basin. Other than that how are we suppose to figure out what to look for if we are looking at Unit 76, or 79 or 80? Why don’t the D & E units match the hunting units so we can use the GMU map to look at the data. If there is a way to do this I would like a reply please.

    1. From the CPW website: A Data Analysis Unit (DAU) is the geographic area that represents the year-around range of a big game herd and includes all of the seasonal ranges of a specific herd. Each DAU usually is composed of several Game Management Units (GMUs), but in some cases only one GMU makes up a DAU.

      The GMUs that are included in each plan can be found on the CPW website – https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/HerdManagementPlans.aspx

  4. all of this and your doing nothing to stop another predator,, the Canadian timber wolf,, not to mention that you let trapping stop, along with the poor managment of black bears and mountian lions,you wont have the largest elk herd in north America,,, just give it three to five years and you wont be able to hunt elk in this un managed state

    1. If you can’t hunt an elk successfully with other historically, native predators then you are not a good hunter.

      1. You need to talk to the people of Idaho about all the wonderful wolves they have. The loss of game and non game animals is real.

  5. hello ron bishop here just like to say I truly love hunting in colo if I harvest or not just love being in the wilderness seeing nature at its best but I do have a concern I hope you don t let the wolve come in I live in minn and I know what the wolves do to wild critters don t let the crazy animal right force your hand thanks for your hard work

  6. Regarding the report on status of big game. The information in the maps would be more useful to hunters if game management units were indicated. Sure DAUs are great of you are a scientist or wildlife officer. But hunters apply for tags in GMUs.

  7. I hunt big game one week out of the year. Woives hunt 365 days a year. You do the math! And they don’t pay for license.

  8. What I see in SW Colorado is the extreme us of ATV’s and OHV’s all summer and into the fall. Most of my old hunting grounds are now void of deer and ekl. Past game managers warned the Forest Service of the impact. It gets busier and wilder every year. Once closed roads are now race tracks. The game has moved or gone. It’s a sorry state of affairs to let this go on. I have hunted 751 and 75 for 30+ years and have actually seen the changes.

  9. Originally, these ATVs were meant for sportsmen to use for hard-to-reach places for fishing/hunting opportunities. Prior to this, it was use a horse/mule, which proved either and/or financially and physically impossible. I was once told by an aircraft supply company employee, that three of the biggest exasperating, financial, and physically demanding purchases and upkeeps were aircraft and horses ownerships. Granted those two special “things” are definitely needed by guides & outfitters, and granted ATVs need care as well, and are not suitable for many “out-of-the-way” areas. However, horses need daily care and aircraft almost as much, as with fuel, new parts, etc. I have been in places in my former home-state, of Texas, west of the Austin-San Antonio corridor, and in my summer home of Alaska, where all three, the aircraft, horse and ATV were ordinary items for a daily operation.

    Today, though, many ATVs are nothing, but toys for teen-agers and young adults. Instead of being used as a tool, they become toys, and if anyone says otherwise, they are wrong. I have joy-ridden ATV’s before, but on private land and where the owner told me where to drive. To say, they are not fun is a denial of the truth – but ridden with -in reason. People question the slightest of pollution, but tearing up any wilderness area, is on the same scale.

  10. Letting wolves into Colorado is a huge mistake. Don’t anyone think they would ever be controlled once established. Wy is a good example. Same issue as the old Griz. I have hunted once a year in Colorado and it is getting pretty bad. Now I have to purchase a secondary hunting license just for the
    opportunity to apply for a tag.

  11. No, no, no…to eternity on wolf re-introduction and make damn sure, a tight lid is kept on these creatures, as they are killing machines. By that, I have seen several of them in the Alaskan wilds, as the state is my summer home. Actual reports show that they wantonly tear into a herd or individual, start devouring prey alive, but move on, sometimes leaving the prey to suffer a long time, before “…giving up the ghost.” Even vultures and eagles will descend on the still living animal and tear flesh and organs out causing even more misery. They are soul-less animals, growing to around 175-lbs., or more. Besides dead and decaying animals give a horrific odor and can assume disease carrying bacteria, etc.

    As to animal rights activists, they cause more trouble than they are worth. Just look at the past months regarding disease spreading over-populated geese flocks. They claim the First Amendment, but forget I have the right not to hear them.

    Having been connected in the communications field most of my working years, from the very inside of the outer circle to right in the middle of the newsroom, “If it bleeds, it leads,” is a farce, as most news reporters have no idea of fishing and hunting or its management.

  12. If you guys think CPW is listening to you about wolves, you are delusional. You are vastly outnumbered by the non and never-hunters who rarely contribute a nickel to wildlife management, but vote for the politicians who control CPW AND they want wolves! Lots of wolves! Now shut-up and continue buying hunting/fishing licenses like good sheep and be glad that they haven’t ended all hunting…..yet.

  13. I’ve enjoyed hunting in Colorado every year since 1986. If wolves are introduced let the wolf supporters pay the habitat fee and buy a license to watch the wolves decimate the elk herd because I won’t buy anymore licenses.

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