A recommendation from the Colorado Division of Wildlife to thin herds of elk will have hunters prowling land owned by the Highlands Ranch Community …
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A recommendation from the Colorado Division of Wildlife to thin
herds of elk will have hunters prowling land owned by the Highlands
Ranch Community Association.
Twenty hunters will get the chance to hunt elk on more than
3,000 acres in the Backcountry Wilderness Area, plus a few thousand
acres of adjoining private land. The HRCA will distribute six bull
tags and eight cow tags after a random drawing July 23;
applications are accepted beginning July 1. As part of the division
of wildlife’s hunter outreach program, another three youths and
three women will be chosen for the elk hunting expedition. Tags are
limited to HRCA members unless there are still open spots as of
Because the property was not conveyed to the HRCA until May
2009, this is the first year that the community association will
oversee the hunt. Since 2002, Shea Homes has conducted
herd-thinning hunts and an estimated 300 elk have been harvested,
said Mark Giebel, backcountry wilderness area supervisor for the
The Colorado Division of Wildlife conducted a study in 2001 that
revealed the need to reduce the size of elk herds in Douglas County
and surrounding areas. Managing big game animals to ensure their
health and the health of their habitat is most often done by
“They noticed the herd was unhealthy. Their antlers were not
growing, they looked unhealthy and there was not enough feed for
them,” Giebel said, adding hunting stems the spread of chronic
wasting disease, a neurological disease that can take out entire
herds of elk. Thinning also prevents the destruction of natural
There are 300-500 elk in the northwest Douglas County area, and
the target number is about 250 to ensure the vitality of the
region’s herds, Giebel said.
Two informational community meetings in the last five weeks were
intended to get public feedback. The HRCA also has sent information
about the elk hunting program in newsletters, e-mail blasts and
through neighborhood delegates.
“We’re open to hearing people’s concerns,” Giebel said. “We have
had no negative comments; just hunters excited for the
Only 3,000 acres of the 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness Area
is available for hunting. Organizers made sure hunting will only
take place more than one mile from homes and major roadways,
significantly reducing the risk to public safety. However, there
are recreation trails within a third of a mile of the northernmost
The elk typically migrate between the backcountry, Cherokee
Ranch, Castle Pines Village and Daniels Park. The estimated
carrying capacity of the three open space properties combined is
450 elk. Optimal herd health is typically achieved at half of the
carrying capacity, a biologist from the division of wildlife said
after the study. There are few natural predators of elk within the
three contiguous large acreage properties.
There is about 12,000 acres of contiguous open space in the
area, Giebel said.
The hunting begins Sept. 11. The HRCA is requiring all hunters
to attend a mandatory orientation and follow 28 strict rules. The
hunts will not be supervised.
For more information on the elk hunting program, visit www.hrcaonline.org.
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