Mule Deer Population Rebounding After Good Rainfall

Jun 28, 2016

A male mule deer.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming Game and Fish officials report the state’s mule deer population is growing because of good moisture during the spring and early summer the past three years. Officials said this moisture helps grow the grasses mule deer need to eat coming out of winter.

Ian Tator of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said because of good rainfall, the number of fawns born the past two years is more than enough to help the mule deer population grow.

Tator said usually, there needs to be about 66 fawns born for every 100 does for mule deer population to maintain itself or grow. In the past two years, an average of 75 fawns were born for every 100 does.

“In the springtime, deer are really coming out of the winter. They really need nutritious forage at that juncture. They need forbs and early green grasses, and if it doesn’t rain, those species don’t grow,” Tator said.

The mule deer population across the West has seen a decline the past two decades because of various diseases, urban development, and dry conditions. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports that the state’s mule deer population has gone down by 39 percent between 1991 and 2013.

Tator said the potential growth in the mule deer population is important for the state’s hunting economy.

“Most people would agree that mule deer are vital to the fabric of the West. And so, people really appreciate seeing mule deer,” Tator said. “And certainly, some people appreciate hunting mule deer. We’re just very interested in keeping them around for future generations.”

He says it’s uncertain whether these favorable wet conditions will continue into the future.