Game And Fish Begins New Mule Deer Research In Northeast Wyoming

Dec 6, 2019

Credit Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Gillette recently collared 35 mule deer does in the Rochelle Hills area southeast of Wright.

The department is looking to study Deer Area 10 to better understand why the mule deer population has been low for several years. Deer Area 10 is a limited quota hunting area because of its lower population, so few licenses are given out to hunters.

Game and Fish wildlife biologist Erika Peckham is based in Gillette and is leading the study. She said the mule deer numbers in the area have been low for years, and this new project seeks to learn more about their movement.

"What I hope to find out is kind of key in on some of these areas that are important to the deer in different times of year and see if there's things that we can do to improve habitat and kind of just go from there," she said. "There's not much information on deer movement and areas that they use here so any information will be good and kind of new."

The study area is mostly public land but includes some privately owned land as well.

Peckham said the collars will track the deer's movements over five years and send the information back to her office every 36 hours. If any does die over the course of the study, they will track them down and take samples of the deer, including for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), to determine the cause of death. Then they will look to collar a new deer.

Peckham said she was interested in studying the does in particular.

"The does obviously are the ones that have the fawns so I mean to me, I'd like to see what areas they are using while they are fawning. That's an important year for them nutritionally. So [does] are really the ones that drive the overall population," she said.

Peckham said Northeast Wyoming hasn't had many research projects on deer and that this study will give Game and Fish some brand new data and information on the local herds.

"This corner of the state hasn't had really any research recently as far as deer movement and putting collars on them to see what habitats they're using. So, this will be the first one in a while that I'm aware of," she said.

Peckham estimates the project will cost around $68,000, and is partially funded by Arch Coal, the U.S. Forest Service and the Wyoming Sportsman Group in Gillette.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.