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Gunnison Winter 2017
Gunnison Winter 2017
Deer herd and elk in Gunnison 1-29-2017

​​​​​​Deer herd and elk in Gunnison 1-29-2017​​

Gunnison Basin 2017 Winter Big Game Baiting Operation

The weather for the week of Feb. 13 is predicted to be mild with highs in the mid to high 30s and lows in the teens. As of Feb. 8, of the radio-collard deer which CPW is tracking 93 percent of the does have survived, and 67 percent of the fawns have survived. Annual winter monitoring for survival continues through June 15. Weather over the past weekend allowed the snowpack to settle noticeably.  CPW has been monitoring conditions and will cease baiting for deer along highway 50 west of Gunnison. West of town most south facing hillsides are open and have little snow allowing deer movement and access to natural forage. East of Gunnison deer sites will continue to be baited through Friday and reevaluated.  

CPW staff is monitoring winter-range conditions, making visual and physical assessments of the body-condition of deer, surveying locations of deer herds, looking for evidence of road kills and monitoring weather conditions. 

We are also baiting a few sites to draw elk away from agricultural conflicts. Those sites are baited with certified weed-free grass hay which is grown on the Gunnison State Wildlife Areas for efforts like this across the state. We have also started baiting deer away from subdivision conflicts. 

Winter is tough on wildlife in the Gunnison Basin, but deer and elk have evolved in these conditions over thousands of years. While this year seems particularly difficult, the animals are able to find natural sources of food.  Everyone is reminded to stay well away from herds to minimize disturbance.

Tracking Winter Deer Survival

After the difficult winter of 2008, CPW started monitoring deer in the basin to determine survival. Radio collars are placed on a representative sample of deer and then tracked via telemetry. Over the past eight years, the average winter survival rate of adult does is 89 percent annually, while average winter fawn survival rate is 64 percent. 

​​​CPW biologists have been studying deer survival in the Southwest Region and throughout the state. To gain a better understanding of mule deer study and survival, please read this report: Southwest Mule ​Deer Survival.

CPW's Big Game Aerial Inventories

To manage big game herds in Colorado for long-term sustainability, CPW biologists conduct aerial surveys throughout the state every winter. Learn how surveys are conducted and what big-game biologists learn from them​. ​

Elk Herd from Aerial Inventory View

Minimizing Disturbance of Big Game -- Emergency Regulation 

Deer and elk minimize their movements during the winter to save energy. If they are forced to move during the cold winter months, it reduces the chances that they will make it through the winter. In order to minimize disturbance of deer and elk now on winter range in the Gunnison Basin, CPW has enacted an emergency regulation that prohibits several forms of wildlife-related recreation on public lands at 9,500-feet and below in an area from, roughly from Sargents to five-miles west of Blue Mesa Dam, and Crested Butte to Lake City. The regulation prohibits lion hunting, small game hunting, the collection of antlers and skulls of wildlife, and suspends all night-hunting permits through May 15. See map​ and official regulation order

CPW also asks that people refrain from other forms of recreation in areas where deer and elk can be seen. This includes snowshoeing, snowmobiling, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and sledding.  Recreationists can find plenty of areas for fun activities on public lands above 9,500 feet.

Winter and Big Game

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies brings together wildlife experts from throughout the western states. The association’s Mule Deer Working Group has assembled experts to look at and make recommendations on management of this species. Following are links to three fact sheets that explain big game issues, specifically how these animals get through the winter and how the actions of humans affect mule deer. Please, take time to read these authoritative reports.

Elk herd in snow
Elk gather in herds during the winter and their numbers tap down snow to reveal vegetation. Deer have been mingling with elk to take advantage of available forage.  ​

​To Make a Donation

If you would like to make a donation to the CPW for mule deer in Gunnison and for the baiting operation, you can do so online through the CPW Store. In the “Donation text” box, type “Gunnison Mule Deer,” then follow the prompts. If you write a check, please write “Gunnison Mule Deer” in the memo line.

Continuing Information

CPW staff in Gunnison will be extremely busy working and coordinating this project. For updated information, please check this page and CPW’s Facebook site.


CPW staff will be available for media interviews. If you are with the media, please call Joe Lewandowski, public information officer for CPW’s southwest region at 970-375-6708 or 970-759-9590. He can also be contacted at​.