As mule deer populations decline, new research shows just how important migration routes are to the species’ survival. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met last week to discuss whether to make stricter recommendations to federal land managers about how to protect those migration routes.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Renny McKay says, one of the commission’s goals is to better identify where animals stop to graze and rest—and perhaps offer stronger protection to those areas.
“Different parts of it kind of have different levels of importance to big game ungulates,” he says. “Stop over areas, somebody used the term a grocery store. So they pull in there and they might stay for a while. And when they move from that grocery store to the next one, they actually hustle a little bit.”
McKay says the commission wants to answer more questions about the impact of oil and gas development on mule deer migration before deciding whether to make changes to its recommendations. He says it’s been five years since the commission last voted on migration routes. He says, lot of new science has come along since then.
“In 2010, the existing recommendation that the Game and Fish makes is that for migration corridors that are half mile wide or narrower, no surface occupancy for oil and gas development. And for corridors that are wider than the recommendation is no more than four well pads per section.”
McKay says the commission plans to vote on whether to make changes to its federal land management recommendations at its January meeting.