Primary draw applications in Colorado are up by 74,593 applications from last year, according to data from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“What I can tell you is hunting applications were up, hunting license sales last year were up,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.
“Everything in the COVID era, from a wildlife standpoint, is up.”
Hampton said the state is also seeing a 30% increase in park visitations over the last year.
“We continue to set a record for the number of people applying for licenses,” Hampton said, noting that what those applications translate to for the actual number of hunters in the field won’t be known until for several months.
Hampton surmised that some of the increases in primary draw applications could be due to Colorado hunters applying in-state versus going to hunt in other states with family due to COVID-19.
“Some of these increases could be due to other states restricting access for hunters,” Hampton said. “Hard to say if one thing is pushing the numbers or if all factors are driving it.”
In a more localized update, Hampton explained the impacts the Grizzly Creek Fire could potentially have on Glenwood Canyon’s wildlife.
“Fires have an impact, but the impact of fire in terms of big game hunting tends to be access not animal mortality,” Hampton said.
Hampton explained how wildlife in the western United States has evolved a resiliency to wildfires.
Hampton said the state was able to track collared elk during the Cameron Peak Fire.
“We were able to work with the firefighting groups and forest service and (Bureau of Land Management) to bring in their mapping and overlay the fire progression maps with the elk movement data from these collars,” Hampton said. “It was fascinating to watch. But these animals move out of the way of the fire and move right back behind it.”
During the Grizzly Creek Fire, Hampton said Glenwood Canyon’s bighorn sheep hung out along closed sections of Interstate 70 during the fire, in addition to seeking refuge in the Colorado River.
The burned areas left behind by the Grizzly Creek Fire may seem scorched, but Hampton said fire left behind an ideal setting for vegetation growth in those areas.
“If people go up in that burn area there’s a lot of green up,” Hampton said. “The canopy is gone, the sun is hitting those areas and what grows there is extremely nutritious for those big game animals that work their way back in there. There’s some long term benefits for big game.”
However, there are negative implications for the canyon’s aquatic life.
“There are some very big concerns for fisheries in areas where that ash drains into rivers and streams,” Hampton said.
Depending on how quickly the snow melts, ash can either absorb into the ground or run into the drainages, creeks and streams.
“Ash can contain both toxic chemicals, especially in areas where homes and outbuildings may have burned,” Hampton said.
“Anything with chemical composition, or even some bushes when they burn will have toxic elements in terms of being a fish.”
Hampton explained how fine ash particles in heavy quantities can cement in water beds, killing off the invertebrates and insects in the rocks that fish rely on for food.
“If it’s thick enough, if the water becomes muddy, the fish can suffocate from it,” Hampton said.
The ash’s impacts on the rivers and streams in Glenwood Canyon are something the CPW is watching very closely.
Hampton said the CPW is working closely with a team that includes area water managers, utility providers and federal agencies that’s monitoring the aftermath of the fire and making sure water sources are being protected as much as possible.
“That muck can clog diversion structures and irrigation structures,” Hampton said.
“It can be a real problem for municipal water supplies. We’re king of working to take care of all those things too.”
|Primary Draw Applications
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.