mule deer

By USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Mule Deer on Winter Range in SW Wyoming) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Reducing speed limits might sound like a cheap, easy way to keep both human and wildlife safe on Wyoming roads.

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.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department wrapped up the first part of its Upper Powder River Mule Deer herd habitat project. It's hoping to improve mule deer habitat in the southern Bighorn Mountains.

Wyoming Migration Initiative/Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved spending $1.25 million to build two wildlife underpasses in western Wyoming on Highway 189. Game and Fish's Sara DiRienzo said Wyoming Department of Transportation and other organizations are partnering on the projects because of the high number of wildlife crashes on a 28 mile stretch of road.

Melodie Edwards

In a canyon near Rock Springs, a helicopter descends, and two coyotes are handed out, bound and blindfolded. University of Wyoming researchers place them on a mat, the animals calm and still. UW Zoology and Physiology Ph.D. student Katey Huggler oversees this study.

Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

University of Wyoming researchers are trying to find out if predators are affecting the low population of mule deer near Rock Springs. Statewide, mule deer have declined by 31 percent since 1991. As part of the project, researchers put tracking collars on 30 coyotes and have been watching their behavior to see if their behavior changes during peak times when fawns are born. 

Joe Riis

Wyoming is leading the trend on protecting wildlife migration routes across the region, but the state's latest move to add two more migration routes is being held up by a letter from a coalition of industries, including oil and gas, mining and livestock interests. Jim Magagna is with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

Panthera

A new study conducted by a global wild cat conservation organization finds that a mountain lions' prey differs by age.

EnergyNet's map of BLM land up for sale in the 1st quarter across the west
EnergyNet

The Bureau of Land Management ended the first quarterly oil and gas lease sale in Wyoming. It's offering nearly 150,000 acres-62 percent of that is on core sage grouse habitat.

Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

This winter, our region has seen heavy snowfall. That can be tough on wildlife.

Two bills are currently moving through the legislature that would give the Wyoming Game and Fish Department more flexibility to manage the collecting of antlers on the landscape. Right now, people can collect them anytime between January 1 and May 1 in designated areas of the state.

Mule deer photo captured by the Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management

An iconic big game migration corridor in western Wyoming will avoid oil and gas development for the time being. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke and Governor Matt Mead announced Tuesday the deferral of thousands of leases within the area and stipulations for some development. 

The doe traveled 92 miles farther than the longest mule deer migration route known.
Wyoming Migration Initiative


The longest mule deer migration route weaves across much of western Wyoming. Twice a year, deer travel 150 miles from the Red Desert over the Wyoming Range to Hoback Junction near Jackson. But in 2016, wildlife biologists tracked one doe—#255—trekking that distance plus an extra 92 miles, all the way into Idaho. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards sat down with the Wyoming Migration Initiative’s Director Matt Kauffman to hear the twists and turns of Doe #255’s epic journey. The question is, have scientists discovered a new migration route or is #255 just super spunky?

Wyoming Migration Initiative

After walking the usual migration route from the Red Desert to Hoback Junction near Jackson, Mule Deer Doe #255 kept going to Island Park, Idaho, traveling a total distance of 242 miles. That's 92 miles farther than the known-longest mule deer migration route. All summer, scientists waited to see if she’d migrate back or if she had just joined a different herd. 

Research scientist Sam Dwinnell puts a new collar on a Wyoming Range mule deer.
Tennessee Watson

For the last 20 years, the Wyoming Range mule deer herd has been in decline, and nobody has been quite sure why. But five years ago a collaborative effort began to radio collar deer, giving scientists a chance to get a closer look at what’s threatening the herd. The research points to disease, predators, and vehicle collisions, to name a few. But the most important variable that’s emerged from the research is habitat loss, which is most evident in the herd’s winter range.

Willow Belden

Last year, the Wyoming Range mule deer herd died in incredibly high numbers because of record-breaking snow depths. That same snow, however, meant extra deep grasses for the surviving deer, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist Gary Fralick.

Fralick is part of the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Project’s effort to understand why the population has been declining there. He said the 2017 winterkill was the worst since the 1980s, but the hope is that this year’s (so-far) mild winter might mean the start of a recovery.

Stotting mule deer. Seen at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada.
Steven Fine

Mule deer can migrate a little bit easier starting this year thanks to new fencing along their migration route. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department replaced old livestock fencing this summer with the help of several partners including the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund, Upper Green Muley Fanatics, Jonah Energy, and the Conservation Fund.

Mule deer migrate from Hoback, south of Jackson, to the Red Desert every year. It allows them to get the best vegetation and find the safest areas to raise fawns.

Melodie Edwards

If you want to catch mule deer fawns, you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning. It’s 5 a.m. when University of Wyoming Research Scientist Samantha Dwinnell gets on her computer. She checks signals emitted from a radio collared pregnant doe that shows she’s been hunkering down in one spot.

“Oh man, that’s beautiful,” Dwinnell says, laughing. “That’s exactly what we’re looking for,”

By USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Mule Deer on Winter Range in SW Wyoming) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Wyoming researcher recently discovered that mule deer continue to avoid areas developed by oil and gas companies, after more than fifteen years.

Biologist Hall Sawyer has been studying a herd near Pinedale since 2000, just as more oil and gas wells were starting to appear on the landscape. Because the deer have steered clear of development, Sawyer says they have had a smaller winter range. The herd’s population started declining in just two years, and by now it has shrunk by 40%.

Tom Koerner/USFWS

Researchers studying mule deer in the Wyoming Range in western Wyoming say that all the fawns they radio-collared last year died in this year's harsh winter and that 40 percent of the female does also perished. University of Wyoming wildlife biologist Kevin Montieth said usually only 15 percent of does die in winterkills. 

pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain

Wildlife in the far western portion of Wyoming did not fare so well this winter. The harsh weather was especially hard on deer.  

Doug Brimeyer with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said the combination of heavy snow accumulation and extreme temperatures took a toll on deer and antelope in the western outreaches of the state. Those conditions ultimately kept animals from accessing good forage, and as a result, Brimeyer said, wildlife quickly used up their fat reserves.

Zachary Wheeler

Wildlife advocates are among those concerned about the presidential executive order to reverse the Clean Power Act and lift a moratorium on new coal leases. The National Wildlife Federation says migrating mule deer and pronghorn are suffering from the effects of energy development and benefited from federal regulations of the industry. 

Tribal Partnerships Director Garrit Voggesser says market forces will likely limit how many coal jobs actually return to Wyoming, but he says dwindling wildlife will hurt the state’s economy.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission recently acquired a key area in the upper Green River Valley. It will remove a bottleneck that could have harmed mule deer migration.  

It was donated by the Conservation Fund who worked with others to purchase the property. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck spoke with Mark Elsbree, the senior vice president for the western region with the conservation fund, about why this is so important.

Tom Koerner/USFWS / Flickr

A new case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was found in a harvested mule deer buck 12 miles outside of Dubois this week. It was found in hunting area 128 and neighbors area 171 where CWD had been found earlier this year. According to Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife supervisor in Lander, Jason Hunter, it’s not surprising that the disease has spread. 

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.

Collecting antlers is not allowed west of the Continental Divide between January and April, but South Pinedale Game Warden Jordan Kraft says that doesn’t stop people. He says the growing popularity of antler collecting is disturbing wildlife, just when the animals need to gain weight in the winter.

More and more people are making money by collecting antlers dropped by mule deer and elk and selling them for $14 to $18 a pound. The antlers are made into furniture, or ground into medicinal teas to sell on Asian markets. 

Wikipedia Creative Commons, by Dcrjsr

A new mule deer migration route has been discovered crossing 45 miles over the Teton Range into Idaho. The discovery of the new migration route was confirmed this year when Grand Teton National Park collared and tracked several deer using GPS technology. Grand Teton Wildlife Biologist Sarah Dewey says they were amazed to see what lengths one doe went to get to her winter range.

Recently, new GPS technology has allowed wildlife biologists to learn much more about migration routes for big game like mule deer and pronghorn. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Smith says they aren’t just roads where animals move along quickly. Instead, they’re habitats where animals spend a lot of time each year.

That’s why, last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission decided it was time to adopt updated policies to protect those routes.

USFWS Mountain Prairie, Flickr Creative Commons

In the Wyoming Range in western Wyoming, mule deer numbers have plummeted by 20,000 animals since the early 90’s. One problem has been the high number of fawns that don’t make it to adulthood. Now, a new study of that herd shows a rare disease called adenovirus may be a culprit.

University of Wyoming professor Kevin Monteith is working closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and Animal Damage Management Board on the study.

Greys River Wildlife Habitat Management Area

Chronic wasting disease spread through herds of elk and deer at a higher than usual this year. Normally, it’s found in less than five new hunting areas around the state but this year it turned up in seven new areas.

But Wyoming Game and Fish Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Edberg says only one of those new areas was not right next door to an area where the disease had been found in the past, and that was on the South Fork of the Shoshone River.

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