Mule Deer Study Underway in Lincoln County

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There are 30 female mule deer in Lincoln County with a bug in their ear. Actually, it's a tiny radio transmitter and over the next year Nevada Division of Wildlife (NDOW) game biologists will be conducting a study that tracks their every move.

The deer study has several objectives according to Russell Woolstenhulme, NDOW wildlife staff specialist. "We hope to gather information on deer mortality, particularly mortality on fawning grounds," Woolstenhulme said. "Mortality data from this study will really help bolster our computer population modeling that we use each year to estimate overall population. Additionally, we hope to determine the locations of key fawning grounds and migration corridors between the deer's summer and winter ranges."

NDOW contracted wildlife capture specialists Hawkins and Power to do the work of capturing and tagging the deer. During the first week of December, a Hawkins and Power helicopter crew spent two days in game management areas 22 and 23 fitting the 30 adult does with ear tag radios. The tiny radio tags, which measure 1.75 inches wide by 2 inches long, weigh in at less than two ounces.

The tags, which are barely visible once placed inside the deer's ear, were chosen over more traditionally used radio collars, partly out of concerns that collared deer may be more visible to predators.

Beginning in January, and continuing through December 2003, NDOW biologists will conduct monthly fixed-wing flights over the marked deer. During the flights, biologists will record each animal's location with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to plot the deer's movement. The biologists will also be on the lookout for mortality signals. Each of the ear tag radios is equipped with a mortality sensor that will transmit a special signal if the animal lies motionless for more than six hours.

The deer study project is outlined in detail in NDOW's 2003 Nevada Predator Management Plan and Woolstenhulme hopes the results will determine if there is a need for predator management in the future. "This study gives us an opportunity to gain some insight about the deer herds in Lincoln County," Woolstenhulme said. "We hope to use that knowledge, not only for those deer, but also for the benefit of deer throughout Nevada."