Hunters note a rapid decline in CO deer and elk population; poaching and predatory factors

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(Update: Added video, comments from an avid hunter)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Hunting season is over. and hunters fear central Oregon’s deer and elk won’t be like they used to be. Elk and deer populations are rapidly declining, and local hunters have even started noticing when they hunt this season.

Doug Stout has been hunting since childhood. He is now vice president of the Bend chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association. It gets a hunt tag every year and often recreates on the trails off Cline Falls Highway.

“When I hunt, I feel closer to nature,” Stout told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday. “Whether I’m harvesting a big game or not, every day in the field is so precious and precious.”

But that sense of reassurance is under threat, as deer and elk populations are declining.

Deschutes National Forest officials report that local mule deer populations have declined by 56% between 2004 and 2021

Population growth, the resulting lack of habitat, predators and poaching are all responsible.

“It’s extremely concerning and disturbing to me. It’s a very valuable resource, and it’s an extremely valuable resource,” Stout said.

There was evidence of suspected poaching off Cline Falls Highway on Wednesday. A bucket full of fresh blood and deer remains spilled on the side of the road, along with trash bags full of suspicious remains. Stout believes the scene is the result of poaching.

“It was definitely the act of a poacher. No real hunter would do that,” Stout said. “That deer was probably killed not too far from here last night.”

Stout says he would like to see more wildlife habitat protection and funding for law enforcement to patrol poaching.

“The numbers are there, the facts are there on this decline, and something has to start happening soon,” he said.

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