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SPECIAL ELK HUNTS TO BE SET FOR SAN LUIS VALLEY

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has scheduled two special elk hunts for summer and fall 2006 in the San Luis Valley.

The objective of these hunts is to move elk off of high-value agricultural lands in the north central area of the San Luis Valley. By keeping hunting pressure on the animals from May through December the elk will be forced to move to higher-elevation public lands on the east side of the valley.

“This is not a recreational hunt,” said Rick Basagotia, area wildlife manager for the San Luis Valley. “Licenses will be limited and decisions on the number of licenses to be issued won’t be made until just before the start of the hunts.”

A bull-only hunt is scheduled for May 15 through July. 31. Bull antlers will still be in velvet and not fully developed. A hunt for antlerless elk will run from Aug. 15 though Dec. 31.

Hunts will take place primarily on private property and possibly some adjacent state wildlife areas. Licenses for the private-land hunts will be difficult for most hunters to obtain. Licenses for the public land hunts will be selected by lottery.

“We might issue 50 license, we might issue 400 plus. We won’t know until next year when we talk to landowners and go to the areas to evaluate the size of the herd and the potential for crop damage.”

Landowners in newly-established Game Units 682 and 791 who are concerned that elk could cause crop damage can ask the DOW for evaluation. The DOW will determine the damage potential and provide vouchers to the landowners that they can then provide to hunters. The number of vouchers provided will depend on the potential for crop damage and what is needed to reduce that potential.

In this area, elk move through high-value seed potato fields on their way to large alfalfa fields where they graze. The DOW and agricultural producers are concerned that the elk could transmit various plant pathogens and diseases into the potato fields that could cause significant crop damage.

It will be up to the landowner to determine who gets access to their land to hunt.

The DOW will not provide the names of the landowners. Hunters who know landowners in the San Luis Valley have the best chance of obtaining vouchers. Those who obtain vouchers will exchange them for licenses at DOW offices.

If the landowner cannot recruit enough hunters the DOW will conduct a lottery drawing from a list of interested hunters.

Throughout the year, the DOW also will be selecting hunters who will be given licenses to hunt on state wildlife property that is adjacent to the agricultural land. The state wildlife areas include: Rio Grande, Higel and Russel Lakes. Those properties were purchased to provide waterfowl and wetland habitat.

“We estimate that we need to move 300 to 700 elk from that area. Elk are smart, when hunting starts we know they will move very quickly,” Basagotia said.

Hunters who wish to place their names on the lottery list should call the DOW office in Monte Vista at 1-719-587-6902, or go to the office at 0722 S. Road 1E in Monte Vista. These hunts will be ongoing indefinitely. Hunters who put their names on the list for this year will automatically be added to the list for the special hunts in 2007.

Hunters who obtain one of these licenses can also buy regular season licenses.

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.