Fewer Carcasses Tallied in 2003 Deer Mortality Surveys

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Thanks to the help of many volunteers, the Game and Fish Department identified and documented winterkilled deer on southwest Wyoming winter ranges for the tenth consecutive year this May.

Gary Fralick, the G&F’s wildlife biologist in Thayne, says the overall 2002-03 winter and early spring mule deer mortality was below normal for the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herd.

“This year’s losses on the Cokeville/Sage Junction winter ranges were significantly lower than the very high losses observed following the 2001-2002 winter,” he said of the surveys conducted May 3. “We attribute the higher over-winter survival of deer this year to the general absence of long periods of below zero temperatures and the lack of accumulated snow on the winter ranges even though browse production on these low-elevation sagebrush ranges remained poor for the fourth consecutive year.”

Fralick says the deer losses were also lower on the Big Piney/LaBarge winter ranges, which were surveyed May 4.

“This deer population was also subject to very poor winter forage conditions,” he said. “However, significant snow accumulations were essentially nonexistent for much of the winter, and colder temperatures did not persist over an extended period as in the previous winter.”

There were more fawn carcasses counted than adults, indicating to Fralick that adult deer entered winter in better physical condition because of good forage production on the summer and fall ranges in the Wyoming and Salt mountain ranges. “Because of the higher accumulated fat reserves, adults were better able to cope with the poor winter forage conditions than the smaller fawns,” he said.

Fralick says the surveys are about more than just counting dead deer. The event gives wildlife biologists the chance to get a hands-on look at the condition of the winter range. Plus, it’s also a good chance to exchange information and ideas with other deer managers and the public who volunteered.

“We encourage anyone who has an interest in wildlife to keep apprised of matters that are important to their deer herds,” he said. “We are very interested in building a working trust between the public and Game and Fish Department, as well as maintaining or improving our working relationship. The door is always open for anyone to contact the department with any concerns you may have regarding wildlife management issues in western Wyoming.”

The deer mortality surveys are conducted each May. The help provided by volunteers and other agencies is greatly appreciated by the G&F.