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Game and Fish plans helicopter captures to collar mule deer in Absaroka and Bighorn Mountains
307-527-7125
January 09, 2023
UPCOMING REGION EVENTS: No events planned

CODY - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is planning to capture and collar mule deer in the Absaroka and Bighorn Mountains as part of the new statewide Mule Deer Monitoring Project. Animals will be netted from a helicopter by a professional wildlife capture crew, fitted with a GPS collar at the capture site and released.

Over 200 deer will be captured from the Upper Shoshone River Herd Unit on winter ranges in the North Fork and South Fork of the Shoshone River drainages west of Cody. Captures for this location are tentatively planned for later this month. In addition, 210 mule deer will be captured on the east and west slopes of the northern Bighorn Mountains mid-January.

Mule deer populations have been declining throughout the west, and Game and Fish is striving to learn more about their day-to-day lives and what impacts their success using data as the main driver. The Mule Deer Monitoring Project is a five-year, state-of-the-art study that seeks to collect much more information, monitor herds and analyze outputs in new ways to enhance the conservation of the state’s most iconic ungulate. The Upper Shoshone and North Bighorn Herd units are two of five herds across the state the project will focus on.
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In recent years, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has collected significant amounts of data about mule deer from regions around the state. From those studies, they know weather, habitat and chronic wasting disease affect Wyoming’s mule deer populations. In the last 30 years, mule deer populations have declined to a point that is worrisome to wildlife managers and the public.

With no quick fixes for these declining mule deer populations, a new round of data collection using new tools and technologies will offer more robust data to inform the management and prosperity of mule deer. The Mule Deer Monitoring Project seeks to collect more information on mule deer than ever before — and interpret that data faster and in a more immediate, usable way, looking at six areas critical for mule deer management: abundance, composition, data management, survival, herd health and harvest management.

Understanding deer abundance is the cornerstone of management. To increase abundance data, Game and Fish will dramatically increase surveys, from surveying one herd a year to eight. Another component has wildlife managers narrowing in on five focal herds, some of which have never been intensely studied—the Laramie Mountains, North Bighorn, Sweetwater, Upper Shoshone and Wyoming Range herds.

The monitoring project will look closely at the composition of the five focal herds—the number of male, female and juvenile deer. That will be done through aerial counts, trail cameras and ground surveys. A large amount of data in the project will come from 1,000 collared mule deer. The data will be key in learning about the day-to-day lives of these animals—where they go, where they stay, what habitat they use and what they avoid. Radio collar data also measures herd performance, causes of mortality, help evaluate harvest strategies, updates seasonal range maps and more.

Processing the massive amount of data will come through a partnership with the University of Wyoming. Researchers at UW will take the immense volume of data, analyze it and return it to the department. Game and Fish began the project in late November, deploying collars and beginning the surveys, with data already being collected. Game and Fish will update the public quarterly on what they are learning.


 

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Discussion Starter · #244 ·
A new round of data collection using new tools and technologies will offer wildlife managers in Wyoming more robust data to assist in the management and prosperity of mule deer, which have been in gradual decline across the west for the last 30 years. Over 200 mule deer will be captured in the Upper Shoshone region of Northwest Wyoming this month as part of the Mule Deer Monitoring Project, a statewide, five year, $5.3 million dollar project to collect more information on mule deer than ever before, looking at six areas critical for mule deer management: abundance, composition, data management, survival, herd health and harvest management.

Wyoming Game and Fish Cody Region Wildlife Biologist Tony Mong says an interesting feature of the Upper Shoshone mule deer herd is they spend winters outside of Cody, but migrate all the way to Yellowstone National Park for the summer. How these deer fare in the winter months is of particular interest… “One of the most important pieces of data that we’re going to gain from this is understanding better the survival of all these different cohorts of deer, from looking at annual survival of our mule deer does to our mule deer bucks, and then how well are our fawns surviving over winter and through that first year, and that’s critical information that we need to collect to be able to understand population size, population growth or declines…in addition to that, just the movement of these animals across that landscape—again, some of the most remote country in the lower 48 occurs in their range—in their migration routes…” A helicopter crew will capture the deer in the field, attach radio collars on them and collect biological samples so researchers can study herd health, nutrition, and habitat use.

Game and Fish is surveying eight herds in all, with five herds receiving special focus—the Upper Shoshone, Laramie Mountains, North Bighorn, Sweetwater, and Wyoming Range herds. In these herds, the study will look closely at their composition—the number of male, female and juvenile deer, also examining data from aerial counts, trail cameras and ground surveys. 1,000 mule deer will be collared statewide, giving biologists a look at the day-to-day lives of these animals—where they go, where they stay, what habitats they use or avoid. Processing the massive amount of data will come through a partnership with the University of Wyoming, who will analyze it and return it to the department.




 

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DWR implements emergency deer feeding in parts of northern Utah, due to deep snow and poor deer condition
OGDEN — Deep snow has made it difficult for deer to find food in parts of Rich and Summit counties, and recent health checks of big game in those areas has shown below average body fat conditions for the deer. As a result, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is taking a two-pronged approach to help the deer out in those areas:

Two hands holding small pellets for deer feed
  • Biologists have implemented emergency deer feeding. Specially designed pellets will be distributed in specific areas. The pellets match the unique nutritional needs and digestive system of deer.
  • Conservation officers are conducting additional patrols to help reduce the repeated stress that people may be putting on deer in those areas.
Deer feeding
DWR biologists and volunteers — mostly landowners and hunters from local conservation groups — started feeding deer at 11 locations in Rich County on Jan. 20. Feed will also be distributed for deer at one location in Summit County.

DWR biologists have been monitoring the condition of the deer, as well as snow depths and winter temperatures, across Utah since early December. These monitoring efforts include body condition and health assessments conducted during the big game captures via helicopter that take place each year from December to March. Biologists measure and record overall deer condition, body fat levels and fawn weights as the animals enter into the winter season.

"In the areas where we're feeding, the vegetation that deer eat in the winter is completely covered by snow," DWR Northern Region Wildlife Manager Jim Christensen said.

Biologists are feeding the deer specially formulated pellets that meet the nutritional needs of deer when natural forage becomes temporarily unavailable. The pellets are the only item biologists will feed the deer — alfalfa, grass hay or other products will not be used.

"Deer will eat hay, but if that is their only source of feed during the winter they can have a very difficult time digesting it," Christensen said. "We often find dead deer with stomachs filled with hay. We appreciate people wanting to help the deer, but we strongly discourage people from feeding hay or other things to deer. These are special circumstances that follow Division policies, involve trained professionals and utilize specialized feed. We still recommend that the public doesn't feed wildlife, due to safety concerns, among other things."

DWR biologists will continue monitoring winter conditions and the condition of the deer across Utah and may feed deer in additional locations, if the need arises. However, deer feeding will not happen in areas where chronic wasting disease has been found.

Herd of deer gathering in a field to each nutritious pellets on the ground
"Chronic wasting disease is fatal to deer that contract it, and it's highly contagious," DWR Big Game Coordinator Dax Mangus said. "Congregating deer at a feeding location increases the chance that a deer with chronic wasting disease will pass it on to other deer. The short-term benefits of feeding do not outweigh the negative long-term consequences of spreading chronic wasting disease in a highly congregated deer population."

The decision to feed deer in Rich and Summit counties was made following guidelines in the DWR's Emergency Winter Big Game Feeding policy. The last time the DWR implemented emergency deer feeding was in 2017.

"Mule deer have evolved with harsh weather, and a few deer dying in years with severe weather is expected," Mangus said. "This natural cycle can actually benefit a deer population by removing sick animals and older animals that aren't contributing to the population through reproduction. However, there are times and areas when winter weather is so severe that it becomes necessary to implement emergency feeding to protect adult does, which are the reproductive segment of the deer population. Even with emergency feeding, we still anticipate the loss of some fawns and sick or old animals."

Patrolling for wildlife harassment
Winter is the most difficult time of the year for deer. Since food is often covered by snow and can be difficult to find, deer have to live largely on fat reserves they built up during the warmer months. If the animals are receiving constant pressure from people and repeatedly having to run or move, the animal has to use up those fat reserves and energy that it needs to make it through the winter.

"We strongly encourage people — especially those who might be searching for shed antlers this winter — to give the animals plenty of space," Christensen said.

To help protect the deer, DWR conservation officers in northern Utah are doing extra patrols in areas where deer congregate in the winter. Intentionally harassing wildlife is a Class B misdemeanor in Utah. Those cited face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

"Our officers can't be everywhere, so we encourage those who spot people harassing deer or any type of wildlife to contact us," DWR Northern Region Lt. David Beveridge said.

DWR implements emergency deer feeding in parts of northern Utah, due to deep snow and poor deer condition
 

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Idaho Fish and Game biologists have spent decades counting and monitoring deer and elk populations, and in recent years, GPS collars have allowed them to pinpoint where and how animals die. It’s a critical part of understanding all facets of wildlife management, and a common question is often, “What kills the most deer and elk?”

The State of Deer and Elk: Survival 00:00 -
Welcome 00:24 -
How do we monitor survival and causes of mortality? 01:33 -
What kills mule deer? 05:28 -
What drives mule deer populations in Idaho? 06:26 -
What kills elk? 11:23 -
What kills white-tailed deer? 11:54 -
How IDFG uses deer and elk survival to predict population trends 12:42 -

Up next: Deer and elk season setting process Check out Fish and Game's State of Deer and Elk webpage to learn more about deer and elk in Idaho: https://idfg.idaho.gov/stateofdeerandelk
 
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