Most Eastern Big Game Herds Healthy Despite Heavy Snow

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Nevada Department of Wildlife biologists report that big game are in good condition, in spite of extensive snowfalls and extreme temperatures that occurred in late December.

A recent warming trend has helped the situation by melting off snow on many south-facing area slopes and exposing forage for mule deer, said Larry Gilbertson, Eastern Region supervising biologist.

"North of I-80 there may be problems, but in most of the Eastern Region the deer are looking good," said Gilbertson. In Areas 6 and 7, biologists reported deer in mostly good condition. The warming trend over the past two weeks has softened the snow and made animal movement easier.

"A die-off is not imminent at this time, but it's still a concern if we see a big storm and colder temperatures," said Ken Gray, Eastern Region area biologist. "In those situations, where forage is covered over and temperatures drop, animals exert a lot of energy just to survive."

Other species, such as antelope, have been affected by the strength of the storms, and have already moved down into lower elevations. About 600 antelope have moved into wintering areas east of Elko, but fortunately they have not yet moved into the urban areas. Some species, such as chukar, have also suffered from deep snow, but now appear to be getting some relief with the recent thaw. January aerial elk surveys showed some green-up in the Diamond and Newark ranges in central Nevada. Elk do not seem to have been affected by the temperatures and snow depths in most portions of the state. However, in isolated portions of the northern part of the state, elk have used some agricultural areas as a result of the harsh winter conditions.

A comprehensive spring mule deer survey will occur in March to assess overwinter fawn mortality and to provide biologists the information they need to develop mule deer population estimates. Biologists then recommend tag quotas in April. Biologists' recommendations are reviewed by County Advisory Boards to Manage Wildlife in each county, and final quotas will be established by the Board of Wildlife Commissioners at their May 14 -15 meeting in Reno.