Colorado wildlife managers prepare emergency feeding plans for big game |

Colorado wildlife managers prepare emergency feeding plans for big game

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
A mule deer buck got tangled up in bailing twine after finding some hay near a ranch in the Gunnison Basin east of Gunnison, Colo. on Wednesday Jan. 16,2008. Recent below zero temperatures and above average snow has forced the Colorado Division of Wildlife to launch its biggest feeding operation in the last 24 years. "The snow is deep and it's heavy, so it's taking an extraordinary amount of energy for the deer to get to food," said Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.(AP Photo/Rocky Mountain News, George Kochaniec jr.).**DENVER OUT* MAGS OUT* TV OUT* MANDATORY CREDIT**

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” Winter storms are taking a toll on wildlife in northwest Colorado and state wildlife biologists are monitoring conditions to determine if emergency feeding for big game should be expanded from the west-central part of the state.

Weekly flights over the area and on-ground checks will help the Colorado Division of Wildlife decide whether to start putting out feed, wildlife officials said.

“We are ready to feed on a moment’s notice. But we don’t want to intervene too quickly,” said Steve Yamashita, the division’s assistant northwest regional manager. “If you intervene too soon and prevent the natural processes you can unnaturally overinflate populations and aid the spread of disease.”

The Division of Wildlife began feeding deer and other big game in the Gunnison Basin last month after a series of storms dumped several feet of snow and temperatures plunged below zero.

Deer are of particular concern because they’re smaller than elk and have trouble busting through crusty snow to reach shrubs and other natural food sources.

Heavy snow and winds have made conditions difficult for animals in the Steamboat Springs and Eagle areas. Wildlife managers have developed plans for those areas if emergency feeding becomes necessary.

Ranchers are reporting losses of hay to elk looking for food, and wildlife managers are trying to lure elk away from where cattle are fed.

Wildlife officials, though, are concerned about the spread of disease if feed is put out and deer and elk become concentrated in certain areas. Chronic wasting disease is present in some of the big game herds.

The brain-wasting ailment is similar to mad cow disease.

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