Early Snow Hard on Colorado Elk

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The winter of 2010 has ushered in early snow for the Western Slope of Colorado and with that early snow has come a wave of early ski resort openings. While that's great news for skiers and Colorado ski resort employees, the early snow has a darker side for local elk herds.

The Steamboat Pilot has a write up about the initial impact on the elk herds around the Yampa Valley in northwest Colorado.

The abundant early season snow that made Opening Day at Steamboat Ski Area so noteworthy represents grim news for the Yampa Valley’s elk herd. The animals already have begun showing up in suburban neighborhoods within Steamboat Springs city limits this month. “It bodes poorly for the elk later on in the winter,” Colo­rado Division of Wildlife Dis­trict Wildlife Manager Mike Mid­dle­ton said Wednesday.


GooseHunter Jr's picture

Guess they will be cutting

Guess they will be cutting tags again in that area.  I have faith in the elk and there strong will to live that as always they will pull thru with flying colors.  They know where to go to for food and water.  just hoping it does not turn out too be as bad as it was a few years back.

hawkeye270's picture

Absolutely not a good thing.

Absolutely not a good thing. This does not bode well for the elk, the ranchers or the Division of Wildlife employees that have to try to come up with solutions to these game damage problems. The snow was getting pretty bad when I was up that way for my 4th season hunt but it got really bad in the week after I left. They have gotten some serious weather so far and if things continue like they have been, the division of wildife is going to have their work cut out for them. Hopefully a feeding program is not going to have to be put into affect because it is expensive and it is just better to let things take their course if things aren't too drastic. But feeding programs can be one way to keep elk from hitting ranches super hard so only time will tell.

CVC's picture

What do they feed the elk? 

What do they feed the elk?  It sounds like they will eat hay - is that all they provide or do they provide some other type of feed for them.  It also sounds like they feed them not to supplement their own feeding, but to keep them away from the ranches.

Managing wild game is a complicated process with lots of unintended consequences from man's actions or inactions.  Mother nature just isn't nice to her creatures sometimes.

ecubackpacker's picture

I thought I read somewhere

I thought I read somewhere that they were feeding alfalfa pellets during the bad winters a couple of years ago. I don't know for sure.

It is sad to see the animals suffer and die slow and painful deaths, but it's natures way of controlling the population. Some people witnessing this tragedy make it worse by feeding the elk. That isn't the best solution for the elk or the people. It only trains the elk to return the following year for "handouts" which will bring more elk in return. But what can you do except let nature take it's course.

A side bar: From a hunting perspective, I was wondering how much snow pack is required to get the elk to migrate down from the higher elevations? They were mentioning snow depths exceeding 31" and the elk still trying to get to the grasses. I didn't think it would take that much snow to get them to move. Maybe I've been hunting too low during the early season snows when I should have hunted higher in elevation?

CVC's picture

It sounds like the real

It sounds like the real danger to the elk is not the snow or lack of food, but habituation.  Nature is cyclical in terms of providing an abundance of food or lack thereof, but as the article points out if the elk learn to depend on man for food, that knowledge will last for years and be passed from generation to generation.

I wonder how the early snow affected the harvest numbers.