Rabbit Mountain Elk & Vegetation Management Plan
The Rabbit Mountain elk population has grown exponentially in the past several years and elk are staying on or around Rabbit Mountain year-round. Because this elk herd has stopped migrating, they are reproducing more rapidly and causing extensive damage to the highly diverse native plants and wildlife habitat of Rabbit Mountain.
According to a Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2009 Report, Rabbit Mountain is one of only two foothills areas rated B1. Rabbit Mountain and Red Hill South of Lyons are the only areas in Boulder County rated B1: Outstanding Biodiversity Significance, where foothill shrublands contribute significantly to the vegetation mosaic on the landscape. In addition, the elk have caused substantial and increasing damage to neighboring residential fences, landscaping, and agricultural crops.
After careful consideration of many options and techniques in consultation with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, staff believe it is imperative to re-establish seasonal migration in this elk herd. Staff believe the most appropriate method to achieve this goal is by allowing limited hunting on county-owned Rabbit Mountain Open Space as part of the state’s existing subunit surrounding the open space property during the state’s regulated hunting season.
If approved, hunting would be combined with other efforts that address the resource and private land damage concerns. These may include limited fencing, hazing, possible alternative crops, and other efforts to restore damaged habitats.
On May 16, staff revised the plan to include updated text and several appendices with more information. Some of the changes in the plan include:
- A broader explanation of fertility control (page 11), with FAQs and reference material (Appendix A, page 19)
- A proposal to use hazing in conjunction with hunting and after the hunting season (page 14)
- Modification of hunting period, beginning after Labor Day, with locations to include Indian Mountain and Cushman open space throughout the week (page 16)
- Summary of initial public input and opinion (page 17)
- A review of culling verses hunting, including why Rocky Mountain National Park used it, costs, and differences between culling and hunting (Appendix B, page 22)
- Fencing alternatives and costs both on Rabbit Mountain for vegetation protection and on adjacent properties for crop and property damage (Appendix C, page 24)
- Draft Harvest Program Requirements and Training Topics (this will be added as an appendix)