Mule Deer Survival Study

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

As part of a long-term study on mule deer survival rates, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) will use a helicopter to capture deer in Fremont, Chafee, Lake, and Teller counties starting January 9, 2006, in order to equip the animals with a radio collar.

“We understand the public’s concerns about low flying aircraft, so we want to let people know this operation is part of a sanctioned long-term scientific study,” said DOW biologist Jack Vayhinger.

The helicopter will be operating in the Leadville area beginning Monday, Jan. 9. Flights will continue in the Fairplay, Buena Vista, Salida, Texas Creek, Cañon City, Guffey, and Cripple Creek areas as the week progresses.

Wildlife biologists use the helicopter to locate deer before dropping a net over them. Once a deer is in the net, the helicopter lands and biologists fit the animal with a collar that contains a transmitter.

“Captured deer are not harmed, and are freed within a matter of minutes,” said Vayhinger.

Approximately 15 adult females and 60 fawns will be radio-collared in an area roughly bordered by Leadville, Fairplay, Salida and Cañon City.

“This year marks the seventh consecutive year of an on-going effort to provide survival data as part of our annual mule deer inventory effort,” Vayhinger added.

Other areas of the state that are part of the study include Middle Park, the Poudre River and the Uncompahgre Plateau. Most of the animals in the study are females and fawns, although the Uncompahgre Plateau study also includes yearling bucks.

The radio-collar transmitters enable biologists to monitor the deer once a week. If a deer dies the signal changes, which makes it possible for DOW personnel to pinpoint the location of the carcass, retrieve the collar and try to determine the cause of death.

Biologists can use the data to gain valuable, long-term information about the overall health of Colorado’s deer herds.

“We observed some interesting migration patterns over the years, but our primary goal is to determine survival rates and cause of death,” Vayhinger said. “Doe and fawn survival rates are critical factors in the computer models we use for managing deer herds.”

By monitoring deer survival rates from different areas of the state, DOW biologists have new insight about how deer prosper according to habitat.