Study shows how Colorado wildlife is impacted by bark beetle invasion killing trees in Colorado

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DENVER — If you’re new to Colorado, you may not be familiar with the bark beetle.

It’s a collection of several species of beetles that have killed off millions of acres of trees in Colorado’s forests.

There have been numerous studies on how the beetles have impacted forest lands, but a one-of-its-kind study was just released documenting how the beetles have impacted woodland wildlife.

The study’s lead researcher, Jake Ivan said, “on one hand it’s sad to see the dead trees on the landscape, but on the other we’re witnessing a once-in-a-millenia event and Colorado is ground zero. It’s quite a spectacle from an ecological perspective.”

To perform this study, researchers put 300 cameras in forests across the state that delivered more than 300,000 photos of animals from chipmunks to moose. Researchers said the response to areas impacted by bark beetle varied widely by species.

Elk, for example, tended to increase their use of areas impacted, or more dead trees. Similar results were observed for mule deer. Red squirrels were among the few species to be negatively impacted.

On the game side, scientists expect in some areas elk will focus their habitat use in severely impacted areas during early season hunts, but access and travel in these areas is more difficult for hunters due to downed trees.

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