Join the herd celebrating World Wildlife Day in Colorado

World Wildlife Day on March 3 celebrates the unique roles and contributions of wildlife to people and the planet. Wild animals play a unique part in the ecosystem, food chain, recreation and even economies. 

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for managing wildlife habitat on its public lands, and in Colorado, big game herds are a large component. Colorado is home to the largest elk herd in North America, and they and other big game cross through many BLM managed public lands during migration. Communities throughout the state rely on big game as a way of life, such as through wildlife watching and hunting.   

Herd of elk
A herd of elk gather at the Blanca Wetlands to cool off on a hot summer day, photo courtesy of BLM San Luis Valley Field Office.

Many Colorado big game species can be found on the 8.3 million surface acres that BLM Colorado manages. Several of those hunting species migrate hundreds of miles each year, moving from higher elevations to lower elevations in winter and then back again with warmer weather.  

Conservation of these migration corridors is important to connectivity between seasonal ranges. Some of BLM Colorado’s biggest concerns with these habitats are fragmentation, anthropogenic disturbance (those related to or resulting from the influence of humans on nature) and resilience to climate change. BLM managed lands fall under its multiple-use and sustained yield mission, so finding ways to maximize commercial, recreational and conservation activities while minimizing disturbances and maintaining or improving to wildlife habitat is a part of that effort. 

mule deer in velvet in lush green pasture
A mule deer buck in velvet trots through a grassy field, photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

BLM Colorado manages diverse ecoregions ranging from alpine tundra, colorful canyons and sagebrush steppe to mountains more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Finding ways to conserve habitats for big game can include large-scale efforts like vegetation management to focused efforts like identifying pinch points to develop highway crossing structures for wildlife to cross roadways. 

Projects like habitat management and mitigation can help with conservation benefits to species. Additionally, restoring lands and waters can help create healthier and more resilient habitats for wildlife. 

Two bighorn sheep stand in the snow
Two bighorn sheep rams stand side by side in the snow on Colorado's western slope, photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

These projects not only benefit big game but have secondary benefits to people as well. Vegetation management include treatments not only to help wildlife, and especially big game species, but also to benefit local plants and biodiversity. It can help to minimize the impact of wildland fires, which on average burn hundreds of thousands of acres annually, according to a 2021 Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center report.  

Many of these efforts are done in concert with agencies that manage other pieces of the ecological puzzle. While BLM is primarily responsible for managing wildlife habitat, states are primarily responsible for managing wildlife populations. BLM Colorado public lands provide habitat to over 671 species of fish and wildlife and are nationally recognized for stream fishing and big game hunting. 

The BLM accomplishes its wildlife habitat management goal of diverse fish and wildlife species on public lands by restoring, maintaining and enhancing habitat productivity and quality as a part of its multiple use mission. Additionally, seeking ways to improve the health and productivity of the lands within federal policy will help ensure enjoyment of wildlife on public lands for generations to come. 

Elk in grassland
A majestic bull elk gazes into the distance in a grassy field, photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Brigette Waltermire, Public Affairs Specialist

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