Mule Deer Mortality Surveys reap grim results
by Wyoming Game & Fish
June 2, 2008
More than 100 volunteers assisted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with the 15th annual western Wyoming mule deer mortality surveys held near Cokeville, Pinedale, Big Piney and Leroy.
Survey coordinator Gary Fralick said the goal of the surveys is to get a sample of winter mortality on the Wyoming Range mule deer herd for an indication of overall loss and what age classes got hit the hardest by the winter conditions.
"On Saturday, May 3, more than 50 public participants and Game and Fish personnel counted 313 dead mule deer," Fralick said. "That is a record. Perhaps more noteworthy are the proportions. Of those dead mule deer, 38 percent were adult deer, and 58 percent were fawns. This past winter took all age classes. Anytime we see a high percentage of adults in the mortality surveys, we know winter mortality has played in big role in dictating population size for this herd. Furthermore, this segment of the Wyoming Range herd has experienced significant winter mortality every two to three years since the 1980s."
Fralick said there is no doubt the poor habitat condition on this winter range contributed a great deal to this year’s high mortality.
"We also know that the construction of six highway underpasses on Highway 30 this summer will minimize mule deer and vehicle collisions in future years, but it all comes down to having high quality and quantity browse available once deer reach the winter range,” Fralick said.
Jeff Short, Game and Fish wildlife biologist in Mountain View, reports 340 dead mule deer were found on the Leroy survey.
"We had excellent volunteer turnout for the surveys," Short said. "The weather was good and we were able to cover the survey areas well on horse and foot.
Unfortunately, there was a high proportion of adult mule deer mortality in the Leroy country."
Fralick commended the public for their time and efforts in providing the manpower necessary to provide good coverage of the survey areas.
"The level of public interest and support was greatly appreciated in helping us document the effects of the winter on this important deer herd," Fralick said. “Next year’s survey will take place the first weekend in May. We will be again counting on the public support to get the data we need.”