Track: Map shows elk movement during Colorado wildfires

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Colorado Elk with tracking collar

DENVER (KDVR) – Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has tracking data available for elk during the Cameron Peak Fire.

CPW Wildlife Biologist Angelique Curtis fitted tracking collars on 30 female elk from the Poudre Canyon-Red Feather Lakes herd in February.

Curtis was able to track the elk movement during the Cameron Peak Fire.

“Looking at the data points as the Cameron Peak Fire started and as it progressed we had elk that were just on the perimeter of the fire and it never really moved them off their locations. So it didn’t make them run in 50 miles in one direction or another,” said Curtis. “They kind of still just stayed there even though there was active fire, there was smoke in the area.”

Curtis found that the elk stayed close to their seasonal habitat and followed green areas for food.

The effects of the fire on wildlife in general isn’t fully known, according to Curtis. She says a lot of research still needs to be done on the effect and how to best manage wildlife and fire.

“They know when it’s not safe and they get out of there they don’t generally run too far ,” Curtis said.

Probably a lot more death occurred for smaller animals, like squirrels and rabbits, animals that can’t move as easily as larger animals, according to Curtis.

A video of about 250 elk seen on a rancher’s property between Loveland and Masonville was taken on Sunday.

It is not uncommon for a herd this size to be around this area, CPW ranger Jason Clay said. Two groups move from the Estes Park area to Carter Lake and near Masonville (the herd seen in the video).

Clay says some herds can be up to 600 elk and that the winter group is the largest in the northeast region of the state. CPW has been tracking these groups for several years with GPS collars.

“The only unusual thing for this year is that they are down earlier than usual from Estes Park, which might be because of the fires or that early large snow storm. Typically our collars don’t move down from Estes until mid to late November.” Clay said.

“Most of the time they disperse into several smaller groups all in the same area, but every once in a while they gather in larger groups like this.”

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