Colorado Approves Big Game Season Regulations

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The Colorado Wildlife Commission approved big game season regulations for the 2009 seasons Monday, during its regular January meeting. These regulations include annual big game hunting season dates, the application and drawing process, Game Management Unit boundaries, manner of take provisions and other management policies for deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, moose and bear. In addition, limited license numbers were finalized for bighorn sheep and mountain goat.

Several of the changes made for the 2009 big game seasons will provide additional opportunity for hunters. Moose hunting will take place on the Grand Mesa for the first time during the upcoming season. This opportunity was made possible by a moose transplant operation that began in 2005. Using sportsmens' dollars and with support from Safari Club International, moose from Utah were transplanted to the Grand Mesa. The current moose population on the Grand Mesa is estimated to be between 120-150 animals. In addition, all successful moose hunters in all moose units in the state are now required to complete a mandatory check of their harvested moose at a Division office.

While ewe bighorn sheep hunting will be suspended in the Pikes Peak Data Analysis Unit S-26 (west of Colorado Springs) and Dome Rock Data Analysis Unit S-46 (near Gunnison), new bighorn sheep units were established in Glenwood Canyon (east of Glenwood Springs) and the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area (north of Steamboat Springs) providing additional opportunity for bighorn sheep hunters this coming year. The bighorn sheep population in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area is the result of a transplant operation that took place in 2005. Sportmens' dollars and support from the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society helped move 40 Bighorn sheep from the Forbs Trinchera Ranch to the area. The population has grown to 55.

A white-tailed deer only season was established in Data Analysis Unit D-46, increasing the deer hunting opportunity on the southeastern plains.

Youth hunting and late season pronghorn hunting was expanded in Data Analysis Units PH-5, PH-6, PH-7 and PH-8 (southeastern plains), including the establishment of a new December hunt. Youths with an unfilled doe or either-sex pronghorn license will be allowed to use their license to hunt during the new December season in these DAUs.

Seniors who receive a free fishing license will now be exempt from paying a fee for big game preference points the following year.

As a result of a citizen petition, the Commission extended the shed antler collection closure in the upper Gunnison River basin. Shed antler collection on public lands in GMUs 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67 is closed from January 1 through March 14 annually. In addition, the existing closure of March 15 through May 15 has been modified, and will only be in effect from legal sunset through 10:00 am during that period.

The Commission implemented an experimental season-choice antlerless deer license in GMUs 91, 92 and 96 (in the northeast portion of the state), which will allow a license holder to continue to use their license through all applicable seasons in those units until the license is filled. Season dates and manner of take restrictions will still continue to apply.

The Commission voted to change the season dates for late season Private Land Only elk licenses in Game Management Unit 61 (north of Nucla) to Dec. 19 to Jan. 17. The decision to make the season later in the year was based upon public comment received by the Commission.

Division of Wildlife staff presented the Commission with information relative to the Five-Year Review of Big Game Season Structure. This meeting's presentation focused on ways to provide extended opportunity to hunters during the 2010-2014 big game seasons. The Commission directed staff to further develop several ideas which would allow hunters to buy more "additional" licenses for the same species and extending the validity of an unfilled license into an additional season. Public testimony was also heard by the Commission.

Division of Wildlife staff presented the Commission with draft regulations pertaining to the state listing status of the bald eagle. Final regulations to delist the bald eagle as a state threatened species will be voted on by the Commission at the March meeting. The bald eagle was recently delisted from the federal endangered species list.

Draft regulations pertaining to wildlife rehabilitators, including license and training requirements, were also presented to the Commission. These regulations will be up for final adoption at the March Commission meeting.

The Wildlife Commission and the Colorado Agriculture Commission held a joint meeting Tuesday morning in an effort to discuss important issues to both agencies. The topics included feral hogs, oil and gas regulations and game damage issues.

To review the season dates and other big game regulations approved by the Commission for 2009 please visit: wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2009/January122009.htm.

The next time the Commission meets will be for a workshop in Denver on Feb 5 and 6. The agenda for the workshop will be posted prior to the meeting at: wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/.