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Colorado commission approves 2012 big game license numbers

From Colorado Division of Wildlife

-- The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved big game hunting license numbers for the upcoming fall hunting seasons.

Colorado will issue more than 240,000 limited licenses for the state's big three species—elk, deer and pronghorn. Wildlife managers and biologists recommended issuing 139,461 limited elk licenses, 79,800 limited deer licenses and 23,862 pronghorn licenses for the fall seasons.

Statewide, mule deer license quotas declined 5.8 percent from 2011.

Agency staff utilized herd population estimates to recommend reductions in license numbers for mule deer, elk and pronghorn while recommending increases in licenses to manage growing populations of moose and black bears.

"Mule deer populations are being intensively monitored and we've seen some declines, especially in the northwest part of the state," explained Andy Holland, statewide big game manager. "Between severe winters, increased development, habitat decline, migration corridor fragmentation and predation, most western states are seeing declines in mule deer populations. We adjusted license numbers accordingly."
Colorado plans to issue an unlimited number of over-the-counter bull elk licenses in the archery, 2nd rifle and 3rd rifle seasons. The 2.2 percent decline in the number of limited elk tags offered is related to elk populations reaching management objectives after several years of intentional efforts to reduce elk damage on private lands.

Black bear hunting license numbers will increase after biologists determined the population is larger than previously believed. New estimates show approximately 16,000 to 18,000 black bears live in the state. 
"The emergence and increased affordability of things like DNA, tooth cementum analysis and GPS tracking collars have given us new tools to know that Colorado's current black bear population is robust and larger than previously believed," said Jerry Apker, carnivore biologist.

He reported the agency's black bear knowledge exceeds some other species because every hunter-harvested bear in Colorado is required to be checked by Parks and Wildlife personnel. Significant historical harvest information about black bears is maintained by the agency.

The historical harvest information coupled with new technology led to the increased population estimate and the increased number of hunting licenses approved for this coming fall.  

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