Mule Deer Study

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A group of 40 mule deer fawns is being bottle fed in captivity as part of an on-going, five-year, cooperative study aimed at determining the reasons for the species' decline in eastern Washington.

The study is outlined in a new article in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) electronic Fish and Wildlife Science magazine on the Internet. The mule deer article includes streaming video of the fawns being fed.

Once weaned, the doe fawns will become part of a nutritional study comparing their body condition under various diets to mule deer in the wild. Using ultrasonography, the body condition of the does in captivity will be compared to that of free-ranging deer to determine if low-nutrition forage is one of the causes of the mule deer decline. Besides affecting body condition and fat levels, poor nutrition can lead to later-than-optimal pregancies, stillbirths or delivery of fawns with low birth weights.

Underway in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, Adams, Whitman and Pend Oreille counties, the study includes 184 wild mule deer does that have been outfitted with radio telemetry or satellite collars to monitor their movements, habitat preference and rates and causes of death. Beginning this winter, a number of mule deer fawns will also be outfitted with radio tags so scientists can assess their survival and dispersal.

Now in its second year, the study is supported by federal, state, tribal and non-governmental organizations including the Bonneville Power Administration, Colville Confederated Tribes, Spokane Tribe, Kalispel Tribe, Chelan County Public Utility District, U.S. Forest Service's Colville and Okanogan National Forests, the Bureau of Land Management, the Washington Department of Transportation, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Northwest Okanogan Sports Council, Inland Empire Chapter of the Safari Club International and the Mule Deer Foundation.