The Rabbit Mountain elk population has grown from 25 to 350 in the last 10 years. The elk have learned to avoid hunters by not migrating. The herd stays on or around Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain year-round and raids neighboring agricultural fields at night, then returns to the safety of the preserve during the day.
The elk herd’s rapid expansion is causing extensive damage to the highly diverse native plants and wildlife habitat of Ron Stewart Preserve. According to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Rabbit Mountain is rated B1: Outstanding Biodiversity Significance, which means the plant and wildlife diversity is globally rare and irreplaceable. In addition, the elk have caused substantial damage to neighboring residential fences, landscaping, and agricultural crops.
After careful consideration of many options, and in consultation with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Boulder County Parks & Open Space (BCPOS) staff believes it is imperative to re-establish seasonal migration in this elk herd by allowing limited and controlled public hunting on Ron Stewart Preserve.
Plan Goal & Objectives
Manage a sustainable elk population on Ron Stewart Preserve and surrounding areas through adaptive management.
- Re-establish seasonal migration patterns where the elk migrate to higher elevation summer range for three to five months each year and do not concentrate year-round on Ron Stewart Preserve.
- Reduce impacts to grassland sites, shrub stands, and forested areas in the high-use areas of Ron Stewart Preserve. Curtail any expansion of high-use areas from the current core area.
- Maintain an elk herd of 30-70 animals on Ron Stewart Preserve based on historic numbers. The lower end of the range is for non-migratory elk. The upper end if seasonal migration is re-established and elk use Ron Stewart Preserve only for winter range.
- Continue to work with farmers and landowners to minimize elk damage to private property and elk-human conflicts to the extent possible.