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Wyoming Mule Deer Migrate Normally Despite Hunting Season

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A new study finds that hunting season does not trigger untimely mule deer migration in Wyoming.

Past studies have found that hunting may trigger other ungulate species' migration before it's naturally meant to occur. Patrick Rodgers, an associate research scientist at the Wyoming Migration Initiative (WMI), said hunting does impact elk migration in Wyoming and red deer migration in Norway.

He said his team wanted to see if that is the case for mule deer in the state too. The group of researchers, from WMI, Western Ecosystems Technology, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, used GPS collars to track both bucks and does.

Rodgers said the hunting season means a huge increase in human activity often within mule deer habitat, but there was plenty of space for the animals to avoid it.

"We didn't find that hunting triggered migration," he said. "We find that that's likely because deer had these roadless areas that they could move to that acted as security from this pulse of disturbance."

Rodgers said the majority of mule deer migrated after the hunting season, which occurs in the fall.

"The bigger factors influencing migration were, for bucks in particular, the distance that they had to travel and then for bucks and does, snowfall and weather," he said.

Rodgers said this indicates good management of mule deer habitats in the state.

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

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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