A study of the movements of mule deer in the northern Bighorn Mountains is expanding this month, with the Wyoming Game and Fish placing more radio collars on adult does. The deer are being captured …
A study of the movements of mule deer in the northern Bighorn Mountains is expanding this month, with the Wyoming Game and Fish placing more radio collars on adult does. The deer are being captured by a professional capture crew using helicopter net guns as well as by Game and Fish personnel on the ground using immobilization techniques.
The goals of the study are to identify mule deer seasonal range and habitat use and document fawn production and three-to-six month fawn survival rates.
On March 5, 25 does were captured on winter range on the eastern and western foothills of the Bighorns and fitted with radio collars by a professional wildlife capture crew. This month’s capture will target does on high-elevation summer range.
The GPS collars will record the position of each animal every two hours for the next three years, before automatically releasing from the animal. Once-a-day position updates will be available to biologists throughout the study, while the finer-scale, two-hour movements will be stored onboard the collar and retrieved at the end of the study.
If an animal dies, a mortality signal will be sent to the local wildlife biologist, who will search for the animal’s carcass, determine cause of death and collect biological samples. Three of the 25 deer collared in March have died, with two of the mortalities attributed to malnutrition, said Sheridan Wildlife Biologist Tim Thomas.
“The deer were in poor body condition with little fat reserves and were found after a spring snowstorm,” Thomas said. “The third mortality was the result of mountain lion predation.”
The collars were retrieved and are being redeployed this month.
The study is a collaborative project between Wyoming Game and Fish, The Nature Conservancy, Sheridan Community Land Trust, the Bighorn National Forest, the Wyoming Migration Initiative and the University of Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
The project has received generous financial support from the Knobloch Family Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Sheridan Community Land Trust, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, the Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3362 and the Cody Chapter of Muley Fanatics.