Wyoming Mule Deer Mortality Survey Results

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This year mule deer in the Wyoming Range fared better than last year, according to May 6-7 mortality surveys conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and volunteers.

In the 13th annual surveys, Game and Fish Wildlife Biologist Gary Fralick says, from all indications, the overall 2005-2006 winter and early spring mule deer mortality was normal to below normal for the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herd.

"We compiled the results of this year’s survey on the Sage Junction and Big Piney/LaBarge area winter ranges and we believe the losses were low," Fralick says. "These two wintering deer populations were subject to very poor winter forage conditions. However, the snow accumulations were much lower and temperatures appeared to be not as extreme on these winter ranges as in past years, which enabled more deer to survive the winter.

"Fawns made up a higher percentage of winter losses than adults, which indicates the adult segment of the population came into the winter in better physical condition and were better able to cope with the poor forage and severe environmental conditions than the smaller fawns."

The goal of the surveys is to get a sample of winter mortality on the high-profile herd for an indication of overall loss and what age classes got hit the hardest by the winter conditions.

Green River Wildlife Technician Bill Brinegar took part in the deer mortality surveys near Cokeville and says it would have been a daunting task without the help of volunteers.

"We conduct these mortality surveys each year and we are fortunate to have many people volunteer their time because they truly care about their local deer herd," says Brinegar. "Their dedication and interest in wildlife management issues in western Wyoming is greatly appreciated and we hope their interest in mule deer survival remains high in the future. In fact, we encourage people to keep apprised of matters that are important to Wyoming Range mule deer because we want to build and maintain a sound working relationship with the public."

Fralick, who has helped organize the surveys since their inception, said, "We got snowed out for the first time in 12 years in May of 2005. I was pleased the weather cooperated this year. It's real easy to remember that we do these surveys the first week of May each year.

"We have a large following and a group of dedicated people from Wyoming and Utah that help out each year. We thank all the volunteers who helped and we hope to see them back next year."