- By Matt Hayes
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During our spring 2017 capturing effort, we captured or recaptured 30 female elk, 46 female mule deer, 19 yearling males and 3 yearling females that were captured as neonates in summer of 2016. We aim to keep a sample size of 35 adult elk and 50 adult female mule deer at all times, however, keeping our sample size is not always possible because weather conditions, collar malfunctions, mortalities, and accessibility of animals to capture. Of the 30 elk that we caught 28 were pregnant and of the 46 mule deer that we caught, 44 were pregnant. All pregnant female elk had a single fetus while fetal rate for our mule deer was 1.5 as compared with 1.7 for the spring of 2016.
Condition of deer south of Rock Springs was actually better in the spring of 2017 compared with their condition in the spring of 2016. This is in stark contrast to mule deer in the Wyoming Range who were in the poorest documented condition in the spring of 2017. Winter was harsh throughout western Wyoming but the Wyoming Range herd was harder hit than herds elsewhere in the state. Deer south of Rock Springs were able to increase their condition over the summer of 2016 more so than deer in the Wyoming Range who have access to typical high-quality alpine summer ranges. As we continue these studies we will be able to reveal patterns and processes behind these data to help determine the status and trajectory of our mule deer populations throughout the West and the state.