Deer Collared on Avintaquin Unit

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Thirty-one mule deer in the Avintaquin area of northeastern Utah are sporting new radio collars as part of a migration study being conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR).

The radio collars will allow biologists to follow the movements of individual deer throughout the year as they move from winter to summer ranges.

"The deer in the Avintaquin area are really struggling," said Randall Thacker, UDWR biologist. "We used to have a large, healthy herd here but after the heavy winter of 1993, they just haven't rebounded. We want to know why they haven't been able to come back."

Biologists believe the problem(s) may begin with the lack of winter range.

"The Avintaquin doesn't have a distinct winter range," Thacker said. "This was evident during our flights because the helicopter and crew that radio collared the deer found them as high as Reservation Ridge. This could be the problem, or one of the problems. If the deer are trying to winter too high in elevation, they may be more susceptible to the rigors of winter, such as heavy snowfalls."

A helicopter and pilot from Idaho Helicopters were used to locate and capture the deer. The deer were netted from the helicopter using a net gun and then "muggers" (UDWR biologists) were landed to attach the radio collars, take blood samples and release the deer from the nets.

Biologists plan to study the animals from three to five years, which is about the battery life of the collars. This will give them time to watch and follow their migrations through various weather conditions.

Other helicopter flights are planned on the South Slope and in the Greendale/Flaming Gorge area during the next two weeks of February. Biologists will be capturing elk and bighorn sheep to replace and add a few collars to animals being monitored as part of existing elk and bighorn sheep studies.