‘Predator control’: Should Colorado kill its bears to save its deer?

Despite widespread opposition throughout a year of public meetings, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to try out a controversial predator-control plan aimed at saving the state’s dwindling mule deer population.

The $4.5 million strategy would involve the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services using hounds, nonlethal traps, and snares to catch 15 mountain lions and 25 bears from around the Arkansas River Valley. Some animals, particularly families trapped together, would be relocated while others would be euthanized. The CPW’s hope is that with fewer predators, more fawns will survive.

“We are trying to understand what contributes to it,” commissioner Chris Castilian said before the vote, The Denver Post reports. “Our main motivation is to get to the bottom of the deer declines we’ve seen…. Everybody is concerned about the mule deer population. We need to be very sensitive as stewards of that. More science is always better.”

But many challenge the scientific reasoning behind this particular management strategy.

“CPW’s plans to test the effects of predator removal are not based on science, and run counter to prior scientific evidence published by CPW’s own researchers,” wrote Colorado State University professors Joel Berger, Kevin Crooks, and Barry R. Noon in an open letter to the agency, reported The Daily Sentinel. “We are concerned that CPW’s proposals are based on a narrow response to a vocal (and diminishing) minority of the general public focused on predator control as means to increase hunting opportunities.” READ MORE.