Last Friday, Cody Purcell, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks & Wildlife, assembled 14 citizen volunteers and six CPW staff to conduct a count of the Cedaredge mule deer population. The purpose of the count was to gather data on the increasing number of deer that are congregating in and adjacent to town. The survey was a follow-up to Purcell's winter campaign to remind local residents to stop feeding wild deer.
Deer are clustering in and around Cedaredge, in part because local residents are feeding them. Feeding wild deer is bad for their health and it is illegal under Colorado law. Deer cannot digest unnatural food and eating it contributes to poor health and sometimes kills the animals. Violators are subject to citations and fines but Purcell hopes that community awareness will decrease the likelihood that local residents will be cited.
To conduct the deer count, Cedaredge and areas near the town limits were divided into eight zones. Counters were given zone maps and instructed to record the number, gender, and location of animals spotted between 4 p.m. and dusk.
Purcell emphasized that the winter count represents the early stages of CPW efforts to develop a scientific management plan to deal with the town's growing deer population. Another count will be conducted in the summer to get an idea of deer movements during diverse seasons. Preliminary count totals may be released after they have been analyzed but the overall goal is to continue gathering data in order to prepare a comprehensive management plan to guide future actions.