It’s fascinating to me that scientists are thought to be able to predict movement of wildlife populations in fifty years due to climate change, but we don’t actually understand what makes them tick (or not, in this case). In my view, better models are built from understanding what makes animals tick.. physiology, behavior, genetics, diseases, predation, and so on.
Mysterious Deaths of Cattle Near Meeker Colorado
This has attracted the attention of media across the country and in Britain.
The best one I’ve read for those interested in the details of biology, was written by the Klinglesmith family who owns the dead calves. It’s an interesting story of how the ranchers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Wildife Services, and various diagnostic laboratories have worked together to figure out what happened. The article even has references. Apparently the cause is till not clear. Warning: some of the photos are graphic.
This whole process has taught us that these investigations will require a lot of time and effort on the part of CPW staff and landowners in rural Colorado. We promise to continue to work with the local staff here in Rio Blanco County to figure out whether wolves are present or if there is another explanation for the apparent stress and trauma these calves suffered.
As a multi-generational ranching family, we are committed to running a progressive livestock and wildlife operation. However, we are also committed to working with those in our state and keeping them updated on our scenario.
Bridging the gap that exists between urban and rural is important to us. The future of livestock production in our state remains equally important. We understand this is a highly contentious issue, but hopefully we can agree on the fact that collaboration is key to working toward a solution. The relationship between state agencies, livestock associations, the Colorado public, and ranching families is crucial in moving forward with the process of coexisting with all wildlife on our landscape.
Colorado Draft Wolf Reintroduction Plan Coming Out
Comprehensive story on CPR here. Worth a read for those interested. CPW seems to have really engaged with the public on this one, certainly not an easy task.
Adding More Wolves to Colorado, Why?
So you may wonder why Colorado is adding more wolves when it already has them. Here’s a bit of history to give context.
You’d have to ask the folks (mostly urban) who voted for the state ballot initiative to reintroduce them. At the time there were two schools of thought, one that they were coming in naturally, so why mess with Mother Nature, and the other.. I guess they felt Mother Nature needed help. But isn’t that unnatural? Oh well. Here’s where the $ came from. Sorry about the ad in my screenshot.
The vote ended up being very close, Now a ballot initiative is an interesting critter. It’s a simple vote, so there is no analysis of say, impacts to communities. Effectively, and unilaterally, urban areas are able to impact rural communities. Even though the urban areas may have higher incomes, which in other contexts might trigger social justice concerns. In fact, Catholic moral theologians could probably have an entire conference devoted to whether this kind of decision-making follows the social justice principle of subsidiarity or not.
But it is what it is, and the CPW folks seem to be doing their best to honor the views of those impacted.
We Still Don’t Understand About SW Colorado Elk Calves
Interesting article by Bruce Finley today in the Denver Post. There may be a paywall.
But in southwestern Colorado elk have been decreasing for two decades from more than 140,000 to around 122,000 – raising concerns. Elk calf survival rates south of Interstate 70 are estimated at 30 or so per 100 cows, compared with rates in northwestern Colorado near Craig and Steamboat Springs around 58 calves per 100 cows.
Going back to the previous article, northwestern Colorado is the area potentially planned for wolf reintroduction, and already has wolves moving in.
CPW crews also are conducting research into why more calves aren’t surviving.
The forces impeding elk survival include loss of habitat and degradation due to roads, traffic, energy development, and increased residential and commercial construction along migration routes. Surging recreational activities in western Colorado also complicates elk survival.
State and federal ecologists point to climate warming as a factor, favoring hot and dry conditions that reduce vegetation elk in southwestern Colorado need. Aridity in some areas is shrinking vegetation that elk eat and that provides cover for calves facing predators: coyotes, bears and mountain lions.
Now it seems like we know what elk eat, and what they use for hiding cover for their calves, thanks to observations and generations of researchers. And it seems like different years are wetter or drier. For example check out this map of Colorado’s water year 2022. where many parts of SW Colorado seem to be doing quite well. So if it were climate warming, then CPW or someone could compare calf survival in years with more grass and less grass, or even elevations with different physical conditions. Perhaps that’s what CPW is looking at. Looks like there have been calf declines in other places as well. , in this example South Dakota. Maybe those folks figured out what was going on?