WY Biologists Launch Study Of Greater Yellowstone Mule Deer Migrations

mule deer buckIn mid-March, wildlife researchers launched a landmark study to map mule deer migration corridors over the entire eastern portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The mapping project will document in detail the migration corridors of several key herds that have never been the focus of the latest tracking technology. All 90 animals captured will be fitted with “real-time” GPS collars that send data back to researchers every three days. That represents a vast improvement over previous GPS studies that required researchers to recover dropped collars to download the data after one to three years.

The real-time data from these collars allow researchers to do something new for wildlife research in Wyoming: They will share what they learn with the public as collared deer make their migrations through one of the wildest areas of the continental United States.

From now through mid-summer maps of these migrations will be posted weekly on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #wyodeer.

Since 1990, mule deer populations in Wyoming have declined 36 percent due to various factors including weather, habitat, competition, predation and disease. In response, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department created the Mule Deer Initiative, an effort to stop the decline and work toward growing the herds again.

“The Wyoming Mule Deer Initiative is a long-term endeavor to conserve an iconic species,” said Daryl Lutz, Game and Fish’s wildlife management coordinator for the Lander region. “It is not easy work and our Commission has committed to invest significantly in mule deer. This study is another way for us to advance conservation with many partners.”

The study may also help game wardens focus anti-poaching enforcement surges to specific areas of winter range.

Wyoming is home to the longest-known mule deer migration in the lower 48 states, a 150-mile journey that stretches from the Red Desert to the Hoback. The trek ranges from lowland sagebrush steppe in winter to lush mountain ridges in summer.

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