CHEYENNE - Winter signifies the closure of most big game seasons throughout Wyoming and as seasons are closing, another important tool for wildlife managers is beginning: conducting harvest surveys.
Harvest surveys are conducted on all species hunted in Wyoming. Small surveys for species with few hunters are conducted in house by Game and Fish Department personnel. These include surveys for black bear, mountain lion, gray wolf, turkey, small game, upland birds, ducks, geese, trapping, bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat. The Biological Services Section of the Game and Fish Wildlife Division can conduct these surveys since they only involve a few hundred to a few thousand hunters. The surveys are scattered throughout much of the year, making it manageable for existing staff.
However, with the major big game species, the Game and Fish simply does not have the manpower to handle the more than 110,000 annual contacts with hunters and survey processing that must be done to obtain reliable data on the previous hunting seasons. Many hunters have noticed that these surveys are not conducted by the Game and Fish.
Hunter Survey Coordinator Gail Sheridan said that due to the size of the survey, the Game and Fish must put the survey out to bid as with any contracted service. The bid process is overseen by the Department of Administration and Information (DA&I) and the Game and Fish evaluates the bids based on the cost, expertise with natural resource surveys, survey science and general methodology that will be used to conduct the survey, with a special interest in those with experience in conducting big game surveys.
“Over the past several decades, the Game and Fish has seldom received a bid from a Wyoming company or any company in the Rocky Mountain region,” Sheridan said. “The Game and Fish would prefer todo business with qualified local contractors, but from a technical standpoint, it doesn’t matter where a harvest contractor is located.”
The current harvest survey contractor for the Game and Fish is based in Wisconsin, and is a subsidiary of an international company that specializes in surveys and other government services. It has staff with decades of cumulative experience in natural resource surveys.
“That company has encouraged and helped the Game and Fish make significant improvements and cost savings in big game harvest surveys over the years,” Sheridan said. “These include offering internet survey capabilities, which has saved the department thousands of dollars each year on printing, postage and data processing costs.”
The big game harvest surveys use statistically valid, random sample sizes for license types, residency and hunt areas so estimates have high accuracy. Basically, this means that enough of both resident and nonresident hunters holding thedifferent license types are surveyed to get a reliable sample. Everyone does not receive a survey (too expensive) and a survey of everyone is not necessary for elk, deer and antelope because the sampling regime provides adequaterepresentation to get accurate estimates.
From a wildlife management standpoint, the location from which the surveys are conducted is not important. “What is important is that when hunters receive notice they have been included in the sample pool, they respond by completing their survey as quickly as possible whether it be online or hard copy,” Sheridan said. “All survey results end up in the hands of the Game and Fish which then uses the data for setting hunting seasons, quotas and implementing wildlife management strategies for coming years.”
(Contact: Gail Sheridan (307) 777-4567)