STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – A mysterious decline in pronghorn and mule deer along the Wyoming-Colorado border has the attention of a team of biologists who are gathering to investigate.

The National Wildlife Federation is putting on public meetings in Steamboat Springs and Craig this week to discuss the decline. Biologists want to find out whether increased oil and gas exploration in the area has anything to do with lower deer numbers, according to The Steamboat Pilot & Today ((

The NWF report by wildlife biologists John Ellenberger and Gene Byrne says that the deer populations are down over the last 30 years. More details about the decline were expected at the meetings.

“The declines are occurring due to a multitude of issues,” Ellenberger said. “Which of them to blame, we don’t know. But we’re finding that the populations are vulnerable.”

Scientists will discuss relationships among the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish and the federal Bureau of Land Management

The NWF says that although the Wyoming and Colorado wildlife managers share information about the herds, the BLM arrives at its own land management decisions that affect the animals, such as decision on gas and oil.

Ellenberger said human activities have gradually fragmented the deer and pronghorn range during the last three decades.

“You go to the next step, with what’s planned in the area (in terms of energy exploration) and by inference you can expect significant impacts on habitat,” he said.

He said he’s concerned that without increased emphasis on wildlife habitat, the animals could be pushed beyond a point from which they cannot recover.

“Any further habitat will just make it worse and reduce hunting opportunities,” Ellenberger said. “It’s a wake-up call to sportsmen and the general public. We need to take care of the habitat.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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