Colorado Wildlife Habitat Ready to Host Migrating Big Game as Winter Approaches
Posted on: Sep 22, 2014
Since 2009, Ranch Advisory has assisted the White River Habitat Improvement Program (WRHPP) improve habitat for migrating mule deer and elk. That part of Colorado contains abundant cover for big game, but some areas lack adequate foraging opportunities. WRHPP embarked upon a series of vegetative manipulation treatments designed to remove the tall mountain shrub canopy and reduce that canopy to within the big game browse zone. Ranch Advisory has assistend in the design and monitoring of those treatments, and the growing season of 2014 revealed vegetation that was ready to host thousands of elk and mule deer as they migrate from high elevation summer areas to lower elevations as winter approaches. Photos below show the strong growth that occurred in 2014.
The photo below shows a slope that was mechanically treated in 2009. The darker-green vegetation was not treated, and these tall shrubs offer much cover for big game. The lighter-green vegetation portrays areas that were cut, and shrubs in this area now grow within the browse zone, meaning they are more accessible for foraging by deer and elk. The irregular cut pattern and resulting "mosaics of vegetation" offer large-scale cover and foraging opportunities for a variety of wildlife.
The photo below shows a closer shot of a treated slope. Background vegetation was not treated, which offers good cover. Shrubs in the foreground were mechanically cut, which reduced their canopies to within the browse zone. As these shrubs resprouted, stem density and long leader growth provided greatly improved foraging opportunities for big game. Further, the strong growth of grasses and forbs resulted in even greater foraging opportunities in the understory.
The photo below shows an even closer shot of treated vegetation. The orange/white pole is used for scale, and each color pattern is one foot long. The strong year of 2014 produced abundant leader growth on the foreground serviceberry shrub, which offers ample forage for big game. Further, the understory of grasses and forbs also offers strong foraging opportunities for a variety of wildlife.
This part of Colorado's White River Valley offers strong forage and cover for big game as they begin their annual migration to winter ranges as winter approaches.