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Updates

22

Jul

Summer 2016 Project Update

We have been busy conducting field work south of Rock Springs in support of the DEER Project. As fawn captures have wrapped up, we are turning our attention to monitoring for any mortalities and collecting fecal samples. Determining causes of mortalities will help us understand the important causes of mortality while collecting fecal samples will allow us to determine the extent that mule deer and elk diets overlap.

We’ve put together a full report on all of our activities so far this year (click on the link below).

DEERProjectSummer2016Update

Thank you all for your continued support!

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24

May

Deer/Elk moving to summer ranges

As we prepare to get out and capture fawns, just wanted to leave a quick update on where animals are and what is going on.

We finished helicopter capture efforts in late April. This brings our sample size up to 51 female mule deer and 35 female elk. Shortly after captures, animals appeared to begin migrating or possibly complete migration. The reason that we are capturing so late, we typically like to capture in March, is due to somewhat abnormal migration patterns witnessed by locals for this population. We know that some animals begin fall migration in September but spring migration was a bit unknown. It is possible that some of the animals we caught spend most of the winter in neighboring states but summer in Wyoming.

All that aside, animals appear to be on summer ranges or, in some cases, as close as they can currently get with some snow on higher peaks. The maps below show mule deer and elk densities across the study area. Black lines are roads and white names are approximate labels of geographical features. Darker colors indicate higher densities.

Stay tuned for some updates once fawn captures begin!
DensMapElk_05242016

DensMapDeer_05242016

03

Mar

Deer/Elk Locations

We’ve been keeping an eye on where the deer and elk have been moving this winter. Even though we captured the first week of November, it appears that we caught all resident animals. We had hoped to capture early enough that we’d get animals collared before migration started in the fall. Our game and fish colleagues informed us that animals appeared to have taken off but we ended up getting some collars out in November anyways. We saved quite a few collars to try and grab migrants this coming spring.

 

Here are a few maps to give you a sense of where deer and elk are on the landscape thus far. Red areas are areas of higher likelihood of having an animal. The first map are deer while the second map are elk.

DeerDensitySurface_01052016 ElkDensitySurface_01052016

03

Jan

Preliminary Data

Time seems to be in short supply but there are a few interesting tidbits that have come out of the capture data.

As some may know, we have quite a few research projects ongoing throughout the state which means we are able to compare data collected in the Greater Little Mountain Area with other areas around the state. This helps us to understand not only the area south of Rock Springs but helps to inform researchers and managers for how populations compare with each other. These comparisons give an indication for relative differences amongst different populations and what is limiting to populations in different areas.

One interesting find thus far has been the size and condition of mule deer caught in the Greater Little Mountain Area (GLMA) compared with deer captured in the Wyoming Range. It shouldn’t be too much of a secret that the Wyoming Range has some pretty stellar summer range compared with the GLMA. Even so, initial results suggest that mule deer in the GLMA are roughly 12% lighter than deer captured in the Wyoming Range at a similar time of year. Not only did the deer weigh less, they were physically smaller as well. Generally speaking, deer in the GLMA were also in poorer shape going into winter than deer that summered in the Wyoming Range.

It is entirely possible this is due to having many more samples in the Wyoming Range (several years of captures) compared with just a few captures so far in the GLMA. We’ll have to keep an eye and see if this pattern holds.

DEER = mule deer in the Greater Little Mountain Area

WR = mule deer in the Wyoming Range

DEER_WRComparison

10

Nov

DEER Project Initial Captures

Following several years of discussions, prep work, meeting with local stakeholders, wildlife officials and university researchers, the DEER Project officially kicked off in early November 2015.

Deer populations have been declining range-wide. Coincident with these declines are general increases in elk populations, more frequent drought and fluctuating predator populations. Recent work in the nearby Wyoming Range also hints at the possibility that disease could be playing a role in deer populations, possibly even more so than predation. These changes are set on a backdrop of fluctuating temperature and precipitation regimes, including more frequent and more severe drought.

In few places are these questions more prevalent than for the south Rock Springs mule deer and elk herds in southwest Wyoming (mule deer: Herd Unit MD424, HA101 and HA102; elk: Herd Unit EL424, HA30, HA31, and HA32).  This region harbors some of the most sought after mule deer and elk hunting in the state of Wyoming.  While elk have been above desired levels during most of the last 2 decades, the mule deer population remains about half of the desired population level. In an effort to address the underlying reasons for failed growth of this and other mule deer populations in the West, a non-profit organization (Muley Fanatic Foundation), a management agency (Wyoming Game and Fish Department), and a research entity (Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit) have formed a key partnership to conceive and execute the Deer-Elk Ecology Research (DEER) Project. The goal of the project is to identify the factors regulating growth and distribution of mule deer in this high-desert ecosystem, while simultaneously developing a better understanding of the ecology of elk and their interactions with mule deer. The DEER Project will take a novel and integrative approach to investigate key questions that continue to be a concern for mule deer populations including, effects of harvest, habitat condition, drought, predation, and competition with elk. The DEER Project will be the first of its kind to explore all of these key factors in tandem, and will be done so through a unique partnership that unites hunters, conservationists, managers, and researchers to the benefit of the Icon of the West.

 

Special thanks to all the MFF volunteers that helped make our first round of captures a success. Also thanks to Lucy Wold for her picture taking expertise and capturing our better side!

 

DEER PROJECT HELI SLINGING 1 WOLD 2015

 

DEER PROJECT SADIE WITH DEER 2 2015 WOLD

DEER PROJECT KEVIN ULTRASOUND FOR MATT HAYES NOV 1 2015 WOLD DEER CAPTURE NOV 1 2015 MATT HAYES 2 DEER CAPTURE NOV 1 2015 FOR MATT HAYES WOLD