Pinedale Mule Deer Population Declines
A new report by Western Ecosystems Technology Inc for the Bureau of Land Management shows that the mule deer herd that winters on the Pinedale Anticline in Wyoming has declined 36% in the last nine years. The Pinedale Anticline is one of the largest natural gas fields in North American and has seen significant drilling and energy development over the last decade.
The Sublette Examiner has a detailed article on the report and its upcoming BLM presentation.
The study postulates three reasons for the Mesa's mule deer decline between 2008 and 2009.
The first is a series of mild winters that might not have pushed the deer all the way to the Mesa. The second is a new law prohibiting antler gathering before May 1. The report says the new law reduced winter ATV traffic in the Ryegrass area; previous traffic could have pushed mule deer to the Mesa. The last cause could be the Mesa's natural gas development, particularly after the 2008 ROD allowed energy companies to drill during winter months.
“It is possible,” the study says, “that this increased winter disturbance affected fawn survival or adult reproduction.”