By Andrea Flores
DENVER (CBS4)– Two wildlife non-profit organizations are suing the federal government over a controversial plan to trap and kill dozens of Colorado’s black bears and mountain lions.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife claims the carnivores are preying on mule deer near Salida and Rifle. They plan to kill up to 15 mountain lions and 25 black bears per year, over the next few years, starting in May.
While Parks and Wildlife officials say 1 percent of lions, and 2 percent of bears would be affected by the project, opponents are calling the study “reckless” and “inhumane.”
On Thursday, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. The USDA department is working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the project.
“We have pretty compelling evidence that lions and bears are eating those newborn fawns before they get old enough to avoid predation,” said Jeff Ver Steeg, an Assistant Director of Policy and Planning with CPW said in a December 2016 interview with CBS4. “We’re trying to test something that has not been studied in literature.”
WildEarth Guardians claims the research is “misguided.”
“All of the science shows that the key impacts to mule deer populations have to do with habitat destruction and fragmentation, largely because of the fossil fuel industry,” said Bethany Cotton with WildEarth Guardians. “There’s also been more human development in terms of residential, and road building.”
A Parks and Wildlife commission approved the plan in December of 2016. By the beginning of 2017, WildEarth sued the state when Parks and Wildlife made their plans to continue with the project known to the public.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife doesn’t like that they can’t sell more tags to hunters to kill mule deer, and that’s a result of the oil and gas industry’s foot print,” Cotton said. “It’s not a result of bears and cougars preying on their natural food sources.”
While both department are expected to move forward with the project by May, opponents are hoping they’ll hold off.
“It’s a huge waste of public resources; we’re talking about over $4 million in funds,” Cotton said.
WildEarth Guardians filed an injunction to prevent Colorado Parks and Wildlife to move forward with the predator-control program while the lawsuit is pending.
The USDA Wildlife Services and Colorado Parks and Wildlife declined CBS4’s request for an interview.