New Study Finds Global Warming Induced Droughts Deprive Deer Of Nutrition

Jun 19, 2020

Mule deer in Wyoming.
Credit Greg Nickerson, Wyoming Migration Initiative

A new study by the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming found mule deer migration is negatively impacted by global warming induced droughts.

Researcher Ellen Aikens and her team tracked deer migration using GPS data. They also used satellite images to look at the times of year when Wyoming land turned green and provided optimal nutrition.

Aikens referred to the process of plants turning green across the state as the "green wave". Aikens said they found deer still surfed the green wave very well in drought years but weren't able to do it for as long.

"In both drought years and non-drought years animals were able to closely track the green wave," said Aikens. "But in drought years because the green wave was much shorter, they just got less of a benefit from doing so."

Aikens said the study is important because migration is threatened across the globe from global warming induced droughts. By looking at migration patterns in drought years, Aikens said researchers can learn how animals are adjusting to climate change.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.