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Colorado State Publications Blog

Why are Colorado’s Deer Populations Declining?

According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), the state’s current mule deer population of around 450,000 is about 25{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} below their objective. Populations have been declining over the last several decades due to human population growth resulting in habitat loss and vehicle collisions, as well as other factors like climate change, malnutrition, diseases like chronic wasting disease, and predation. A recent technical report from CPW examines the causes of deer mortality, specifically to help wildlife investigators determine the difference between predation and scavenging so that accurate causes of death can be determined and addressed. Since 2016 CPW has been studying whether predator control can help boost mule deer populations. You can read more about this strategy on CPW’s website.

CPW has also recently released The Story of Colorado’s Mule Deer, a short publication for general readers that explores the history of mule deer in Colorado and some of the factors behind the recent population decline. Additional information can be found in Mule Deer in Northwest Colorado, a fact sheet from CPW summarizing their research in that part of the state.

Colorado is not the only western state to experience declining mule deer populations. In 2004 CPW (then the Colorado Division of Wildlife) teamed with other western U.S. wildlife agencies to produce the North American Mule Deer Conservation Plan, which examines a variety of population decline factors including hunting, disease, and habitat loss. A few years prior, the Division of Wildlife also submitted a report to the Colorado legislature on declining mule deer populations. Our library collection includes numerous other resources on Colorado mule deer research; search our library’s online catalog for titles.

 

Photo by David Hannigan courtesy Colorado Parks & Wildlife

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Colorado State Publications Blog

2018 is Year of the Bird

All this year, conservation and wildlife organizations across the US have been celebrating Year of the Bird, a campaign to bring awareness to the importance of birds and to celebrate the centennial of the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Here in our state, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) is participating in Year of the Bird by highlighting bird species in their popular Colorado Outdoors magazine. Each 2018 issue features articles on Colorado birds and what CPW is doing to research and protect them. For instance, in the September/October issue, you can read about how CPW is working to protect burrowing owls, which live in prairie dog colonies. As prairie dog towns are being eradicated, so too are the burrowing owls. Both species are integral parts of the grassland ecosystem.

This year is also the 80th anniversary of Colorado Outdoors. Founded in 1938, the magazine was originally titled Colorado Conservation Comments. It became known as Colorado Outdoors in 1956. Back issues of the magazine are available for checkout from our library.

For additional resources on Colorado birds, see the CPW website and search our library’s online catalog.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Should Wolves be Reintroduced in Colorado?

If wolves were reintroduced in our state, would they benefit the environment or be a nuisance for ranchers? In spite of a 2016 resolution passed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife stating that wolves would not be purposefully reintroduced into the state (although those that wander here on their own won’t be removed), the debate continues.
Andrew Gulliford, a professor if history and environmental studies at Fort Lewis College, is an advocate for reintroduction and recently co-edited a book outlining the science, and the debate, behind the reintroduction of wolves. According to Gulliford’s blog posting for University Press of Colorado — the publisher of his book The Last Stand of the Pack — evidence for wolves’ contribution to the ecology of the mountain west can be seen in Yellowstone:

I teach my college students that wolves brought songbirds back to Yellowstone. I explain that wolves cut the coyote population in half. With fewer coyotes there are more small rodents and mammals aerating the soil and providing better grasses. But the largest and most dramatic effect has been the culling of the Yellowstone elk herd. By 1995 the ungulates had done severe damage to the vegetation of the park. Wolves changed that. As wolf packs began to hunt elk, the wapiti were slowed and caught in downed timber along rivers and streams. So elk learned safety meant higher sagebrush benches where they could see and smell better. With fewer elk, plants recovered. Aspen thrived. And in this new thicker forest of riverine vegetation, beaver colonies established small pools, attracting other animals, insects, and, yes, butterflies.

The State of Colorado has been studying the issue of wolf reintroduction since the 1980s. In our library you can find several reports on the topic, including

The Last Stand of the Pack is also available for checkout from our library. This book was originally issued in 1929 by famed Colorado naturalist Arthur Carhart and Stanley P. Young. Gulliford and the aptly-named Tom Wolf edited the new edition for University Press of Colorado. This expanded edition contains new writings by Gulliford and other contributors who discuss the debate over reintroduction since Carhart’s time.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Biodiversity

Did you know that today, May 22, is International Day for Biological Diversity? Biological diversity – usually shortened to “biodiversity” – refers to the variety of species and natural processes in an ecosystem.  As habitats are reduced by development and increased human habitation, some species of plants and animals are pushed out or become endangered, reducing a particular ecosystem’s natural biodiversity.

Biodiversity first became a buzzword in the early 1990s (in fact, this year is the 25th anniversary of the May 22 commemoration).  You may recall that was the time of heightened awareness about the destruction of rainforests and other natural landscapes.  Here in the US, over the course of the twentieth century our country shifted dramatically from mainly rural/agrarian to predominantly urban/suburban, bringing with it the awareness of the loss of many natural habitats for plants and wildlife.

In 1993 the Colorado Division of Wildlife published Biodiversity: The Big Picture, an illustrated publication for all ages meant to teach Coloradans about the variety of species in our state and what people can do to protect them.  This publication is part of the Division of Wildlife’s “Colorado’s Wildlife Company” series, which have all been digitized and made available online by our library.

Also in the early ’90s the University of Colorado Law School’s Natural Resources Law Center issued several publications about biodiversity and the legal protections available for natural resources conservation.  Titles include Conserving Biodiversity on Private Lands (1995) as well as a policy report about the US Forest Service’s biodiversity sustainability efforts (1996). 

Also during this period, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), established in 1979 under the name “Colorado Natural Features Inventory,” changed its name and moved to its present home at Colorado State University in 1992-1994. Soon after, the Program began producing numerous publications on biodiversity across Colorado. “Biological inventory,” “biological survey,” and “assessment of critical biological resources” reports for counties, wetlands, conservation areas, and other natural areas across Colorado have been issued.  You can view over 250 of these reports, from 1993 to the present, in our digital repository.

Biodiversity awareness efforts didn’t end in the ’90s; they are still going on today. The Colorado Division of Wildlife (now known as Colorado Parks & Wildlife) and CNHP have continued to publish resources about the state’s biodiversity, including CNHP’s A Biodiversity Scorecard for Colorado (2008) and the Division of Wildlife’s Wild Colorado: Crossroads of Biodiversity (2003).

Photo by David Hannigan courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Grasslands

On the plains of Colorado, grassland ecosystems provide habitats for many species of plants and animals.  Yet increased human migration and development is causing the disappearance of much of the state’s historic grasslands.  Some, however, have been protected, such as the Pawnee and Comanche National Grasslands, which draw visitors to experience nature and learn about Colorado’s natural habitats.  You can read about grassland species; conservation; tourist information; and much more through state government resources available from our library.  Materials listed without hyperlinks can be checked out in print from our library.

Scientific and conservation publications:

Visitor information:

Photo courtesy USDA/United States Forest Service

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Colorado Conservation Commission

“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.”  — Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

After decades of mining, logging, extracting, and building, Americans in the first decade of the twentieth century began to realize that the American wilderness was a finite resource.  The “Conservationist President” Roosevelt and other conservationists like John Muir helped to call Americans’ attention to the rapid loss of America’s wilderness.  Numerous National Parks (including Colorado’s Mesa Verde) and National Monuments were designated during Roosevelt’s presidency (1901-1909).

In 1906 President Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, the first federal law passed for the purpose of protecting natural and cultural resources, including archaeological sites.  The designation of Mesa Verde as a National Park in 1906 was a direct result of the Act, as were such sites as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming; Chaco Canyon in New Mexico; Arizona’s Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon; and Washington’s Mount Olympus, among others.  Colorado’s U.S. Senator Thomas Patterson was among the sponsors of the Antiquities Act (you can check out his biography, Tom Patterson:  Colorado Crusader for Change, from our library).

Amidst the legislation occurring at the federal level, the state government here in Colorado was also working to address environmental concerns. Governor Henry Buchtel established the Colorado Conservation Commission following a 1908 White House governor’s conference called by President Roosevelt.  Governor John Shafroth (whose biography, Honest John Shafroth:  A Colorado Reformer, can also be checked out from our library) expanded the Colorado Conservation Commission, and in 1910, the commission issued a report to Governor Shafroth which is now available online through our library.  The report includes the official proceedings of the commission; resolutions they adopted and state legislation they suggested; and several essays from local notables advocating for conservation.  This publication is a significant primary source document that can be useful to students, historians, and policymakers who are researching the history of the conservation movement in Colorado and the United States.

Roosevelt’s Colorado hunting license, reproduced in the 1905 Report of the State Game & Fish Commissioner.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Gardening with Native Plants

Spring is coming, and as you begin planning your yard and garden, consider the benefits of using native plants.  Native plant species are a good choice because they are adapted to Colorado’s climate and soil, so can be easy to grow here in Colorado.  Native plants are also good for water conservation, as they are adapted to growing in Colorado’s arid climate.  Finally, native plants attract local pollinators (bees, birds, butterflies), which are essential to plant reproduction.

Many varieties of penstemon, including the Rocky Mountain penstemon shown here, are native to Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado State University Extension.

Our library offers a number of resources that you may find helpful if you choose to grow native plants, including

Also, for information on pollinators, see

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Conserving Colorado's Rare Plants

Endangered species conservation isn’t just about animals — plant species often become rare and endangered as well.  Colorado is home to a number of rare plants that various state agencies, including the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Colorado State University’s Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) have been working to conserve.  In our library you will find a number of resources that detail what Colorado is doing to conserve rare plants.  (Publications without hyperlinks can be checked out in print).

In 2008 the CNHP held a series of Rare Plant Conservation WorkshopsReports on the workshops, and their resulting Conservation Action Plans (2011), are available for our library for

Action plans for other areas include:

CNHP has also conducted many Rare Plant Surveys for locations around Colorado.  Survey reports are available from our library, including:

Reports of specific rare plants have also been prepared by CNHP:

For basic reference on Colorado plant species, see these books from University Press of Colorado:

  • Catalog of Colorado Flora:  A Colorado Biodiversity Baseline, 1992
  • Colorado Flora:  Eastern Slope, 2012
  • Colorado Flora:  Western Slope, 2012
  • Rocky Mountain Flora, 1967

And finally, for a comparison and to see how plant species may have changed over time, see the 1906 Flora of Colorado from the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station.  

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Biodiversity

The concept of biodiversity refers to conservation of plant and animal species in their natural environments to ensure a wide variety of species in an ecosystem. Having a rich biodiversity means plants and animals can serve each other as nature intended.  Biodiversity studies explore habitat loss, threatened and endangered species, and conservation of ecosystems.  Two state agencies, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado State University’s Colorado Natural Heritage Program have conducted and published numerous studies on Colorado’s biodiversity and the need for conservation.  Selected studies include:

Colorado Department of Natural Resources:

Colorado Natural Heritage Program:

Other agencies:

This is just a sampling of the many resources on this topic available from our library.  Be sure to search our library’s online catalog for more publications.  The Natural Heritage Program in particular has produced numerous reports not listed here, including studies of specific plant and animal species and geographic areas.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Don't Release Non-Native Species into the Wild

Have you ever seen a tropical bird flying around Denver, or caught a strange-looking fish in a mountain stream?  It happens — but it shouldn’t.  Sometimes people think releasing an animal back into the wild is a kind way of letting it go free — but this is far from the truth.  In fact, when you release a pet or laboratory specimen into the wild, it generally is either not adapted for Colorado’s climate, or never learned the necessary skills to fend for itself, or both.  Further, non-native species can harm the ecosystem in a variety of ways, from spreading foreign parasites and diseases to altering native species’ gene pools.  Therefore, if you have an unwanted animal, consider donating it to a shelter (if a pet animal) or see about donating it to a classroom or a local museum or aquarium.  You can find out more information about the hazards of releasing non-native species into the wild by visiting the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Don’t Turn it Loose webpage.  You can also search our library’s web catalog for further information on non-native and invasive species and their effects.

The bullfrog is an example of a non-native species that has been introduced into Colorado.  It preys on other frogs and has reduced populations of Colorado’s native leopard frog.  (Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Dying Trees and the State of Colorado Forests

If a tree dies in the forest does anyone notice? The Colorado State Forest Service does. The 2011 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests has just been released. If you’ve driven up to the high country lately you may have noticed large swaths of red colored pines where there used to be pre-dominately green healthy trees. This report talks about the effect of the pine beetle on Colorado forests as well as other pests and diseases. There are maps showing the areas affected by infestations and descriptions of the ongoing efforts to keep our forests healthy. If you’d like to learn more about Colorado’s forests take some time to look through this publication. There is a general forest overview (p. 19) and also a special section that focuses on the great plains.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Miller Moths

This year is an especially heavy year for miller moths. Millers migrate in the late spring/early summer from the plains to the mountains, passing through the Front Range on their way. Moths often get into homes and cars and, although they can be a nuisance, miller moths don’t eat household furnishings and they don’t reproduce during the migratory period, according to researchers at Colorado State University. For more information on these pesky but harmless creatures, see CSU’s Miller Moths fact sheet.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Prairie Dogs

As more and more land gets developed, these cute little critters are becoming endangered. Because prairie dogs are (or at least, used to be) one of the most visible species of wildlife along the front range, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has published a number of guides to these little animals. Available from our library:

Also, see the following publications regarding Colorado’s endangered wildlife:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Amphibians and Reptiles

Did you know Colorado is home to a variety of frogs, toads, and other amphibians? You can find out all about them in some of the publications available in our library and on the web, including

There are many more, too — just search our web catalog for more publications you can check out from our library.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Garden Butterflies

This is the time of year when yards and gardens are filled with bees, birds, and butterflies. I have seen a number of large yellow butterflies this month, and they look so pretty flitting through the colorful gardens blooming in the summertime. The CSU Cooperative Extension has produced a publication called Attracting Butterflies to the Garden, offering tips on which fruit and flowers are most attractive to butterflies. Using these plants can attract these pretty insects that will make your garden even more colorful.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Tamarisk

The tamarisk plant (saltcedar) is one of the greatest threats to riparian habitats and streams. Originally from Eurasia, it was introduced in the 1800’s to the southwestern area of our country. For years I’ve seen it along the western rivers. Now I see it in the metro area along roadside marshes, drainage ditches, foothills streams, and in my city parks!

In 2003 Governor Owens issued Executive Order D 002 03 to coordinate efforts to eradicate this plant on public land. In response to the Executive Order the Department of Natural Resources published a report, 10-Year Strategic Plan on the Comprehensive Removal of Tamarisk and the Coordinated Restoration of Colorado’s Native Riparian Ecosystems, in 2004.

You may wonder what this plant looks like. It isn’t just a little weed, easy to overlook. Thick stands, up to 15 feet high, obstruct views of lakes and rivers and make access to them difficult. It crowds out native shrubs and trees that wildlife depend on and is of no use to native species. Difficult to eradicate, the most critical problem is that it consumes enormous amounts of water. One acre of tamarisk uses 1.3 million gallons of water per year. For pictures and details, check out the above reports and the following state publications:

Streamlines, v.20, no. 3, pp. 4-5
Weed Profile, Saltcedar (Tamarisk) Colorado State Parks

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Humans and Wildlife

Our library just accessioned a brand-new publication from the Division of Wildlife entitled “Living with Wildlife in Red Fox Country.” This new brochure is especially timely due to the recent news story of a little girl who was bitten by a fox. CDOW has also published “Living with Wildlife” brochures on geese, bears, coyotes, mountain lions, and moose, all available from our library. Some other sources regarding the interaction between widlife and humans available in our library includes:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Mountain Pine Beetle

On a trip up to the mountains this weekend I noticed just how much damage is being caused as a result of outbreaks of mountain pine beetle. For information on this damaging insect, see the CSU Fact Sheet “Mountain Pine Beetles” and “Colorado’s Common Insects and Diseases“, also from CSU. Both publications are available online. Check our catalog for other information available from our library, including more on Colorado insects and on tree problems and diseases.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Free Insects: The Request-a-Bug Program

Weeds and unwanted pests present a challenge to gardeners. The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s “Request-a-Bug” program offers an alternative to pesticides. Colorado residents can obtain free biological pest control agents (insects) by going to the Biological Pest Control Request-a Bug Program website. Fill out a form on this site to have the bugs sent to your home.

Because the biocontrol agents are usually host specific, you must accurately identify the species you are trying to control. The site includes a link to the Colorado Weed Management Association Noxious Weeds site to help with identification. Additional information can be found in the CSU Cooperative Extension’s Gardening Online Fact Sheets and Insects Online Fact Sheets. In addition, a search in our online catalog turns up many publications on weeds, insects, and organic gardening which can be borrowed from our library. One helpful title is Weeds of Colorado: A Comprehensive Guide to Identification, 1998, by Robert Zimdahl, published by Cooperative Extension.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Forests

New information on the problem of our changing forests has recently been published. The 2006 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests looks in depth at lodgepole pine forests and the bark beetle epidemic. These forests need to be managed for clean water, recreation opportunities, wood products, wildlife habitat, and safer communities. The report emphasizes the responsibility we all have to manage the forests appropriately.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey site has information for everyone on ways to help prevent the spread of destructive tree insects through the appropriate use of firewood. Similar information is on CSU Extension’s fact sheet, Firewood and House Log Insects.