Local Mule Deer Foundation Chapter Assists FGD
For the second time in it's five year existence, the Henry's Fork Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation has provided funding and manpower to assist the Idaho Fish and Game Department in efforts to collect data used to manage mule deer populations in Idaho. In 2001, the Henry's Fork Chapter participated in a fawn mortality study of wintering deer in hunting units 59 and 59A. This year, efforts were focused on the local Sand Creek deer herd that winters in Unit 60A.
In December, members of the MDF joined IDFG personnel and other volunteers to capture and radio mark 42 mule deer. These deer are part of the Sand Creek herd that typically spends the winter months on the Junipers winter range west of St. Anthony in Fremont County. In addition to manpower, the Henry's Fork Chapter provided funding for additional radio collars, helicopter time used in the operation, and fixed wing aircraft flights needed to follow the deer throughout the year. Funds for both projects were generated at the Chapter's annual Mule Deer Foundation Banquet held in St. Anthony.
According to Regional Wildlife Biologist Dennis Aslett, "This is not only an excellent example of sportsmen's funds that are generated locally being used to benefit local wildlife, but is also an opportunity for sportsmen to become directly involved in hands-on wildlife management." The Sand Creek Mule Deer Project is divided into two parts, a fawn mortality study and a herd distribution study.
To study fawn survivability, 26 fawns were radio marked during December and early January and have been monitored 2-4 times per week during the winter months. If a fawn dies, it is checked as soon as possible so that biologists can determine and document cause-specific mortality. According to Aslett, "As of March 25, only two radio marked fawns had died. One was determined to be a coyote kill and the other is unknown. At this point in time, the Sand Creek herd has the highest survival rate of any herd currently being monitored across the state of Idaho with a 92% survival rate compared to 64% statewide." The next month will be the most crucial as wintering animals switch from winter forage to spring green up.
To accomplish the herd distribution study part of the project, 17 does were radio collared in addition to the 26 fawns. The does will be monitored throughout the year and data collected will provide valuable information on the seasonal distribution of the Sand Creek herd. This information will be used by wildlife managers to identify key mule deer seasonal habitats and migration corridors and will also be important in the development of appropriate hunting seasons.
The Mule Deer Foundation is a national, nonprofit, tax-exempt wildlife conservation organization dedicated to maintaining high-quality mule and black-tailed deer populations in North America. The Chapter is having its Fifth Annual Banquet on April 3, 2004 in St. Anthony at the St. Anthony City Building. Tickets and information can be obtained from any committee member or by calling Chapter Chairman Rob Miller at 624-7373 or Dave Peterson at 624-3578.