19th Annual Deer Mortality Survey shows encouraging overwintering results
80-90 Percent fawn survival rate for Sublette and Wyoming Range mule deer herds
by Wyoming Game and Fish
May 30, 2012
Eleven volunteers and six Wyoming Game and Fish Department personnel completed the 19th annual deer mortality survey on May 5, in Nugget Canyon, to determine how deer overwintered in the Wyoming Range mule deer herd.
Thayne Wildlife Biologist Gary Fralick said the results were much more encouraging than last year’s survey.
"The 2011-12 winter was a polar opposite in the effects it had on western Wyoming deer herds," Fralick said. "The result of the mild winter enabled us to search about 125 miles of transects. Only eight deer were found, compared to 382 carcasses found in 2011. The open, snow-free winter, and mild temperatures allowed extremely high over-winter survival for deer in the Wyoming Range and Sublette mule deer herds, two of Wyoming's premier deer populations."
Department personnel are anticipating 80-90 percent fawn survival this year compared to only 35-50 percent fawn survival following the 2010-11 winter. Fralick believes that a substantial number of fawns will be added to the population this year because of the high overwinter survival, and as a result, deer populations in these two deer herds will increase slightly.
"Another positive result of the mild winter is buck deer are already beginning antler growth," Fralick said. "I have observed some bucks that have grown antlers that extend to the end of their ears already. This was not the case following the 2010-2011 winter because much of the feed that bucks needed to initiate antler growth was covered by snow and was unavailable well into late May. As a result of the earlier start in producing antlers, there will be some exceptional trophy class bucks taken during this year's hunt. This situation happens every time we have an extremely mild winter and an early spring. Bucks are able to maximize the forage that is available and begin producing antlers, unlike after a severe winter where all of the energy is used for body maintenance and to replenish fat reserves."
Mountain View Wildlife Biologist Jeff Short said 11 volunteers assisted with the mortality surveys in the Leroy area on May 12. Volunteers covered a total of 60 survey miles and only found six deer carcasses.
Short and Fralick thank all the volunteers who helped out with the surveys.
"The public has been very supportive of this annual event, and without their help we could never collect the quantity and quality of data we do," Fralick said.