Big Game Animal

shining a light on survival in wyoming’s harsh climates

Wildlife move daily and seasonally to survive. However, the habitats they rely on continue to be fragmented by housing, roads, fences, energy facilities and other man-made barriers. As a result, animals are struggling to reach food, water, shelter, and breeding sites.



Big-game animal migration, and its challenges in today’s world, is an area of emphasis for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Learn what the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is doing to improve Wyoming's wildlife movements.

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Big Game Animal Migration

Why migration should be important to you?

Let’s put you in the world of a mule or white-tailed deer to answer that question. You may discover humans and deer have more in common than you think.

Summer Range

Stress-free vacationing

You like to go on vacation in the summer, right?

Perhaps somewhere warm, relaxing and with everything you need to be happy and comfortable. This is called summer range for deer, which is typically in higher elevations where food is abundant.


Refuel & Recharge

Let’s say your vacation is a camping trip into the mountains, and a spot you have to walk a long way to get to. Typically, you would take a break during your hike to rest, have something to eat and drink some water.

This is called a stopover for deer during their migration.


Habitat Fragmentation

Deer move daily and seasonally to survive. Humans do, too, but we have different modes of transportation to get from here to there. Deer have to – no pun intended – hoof it.

When obstacles are in our way, we usually can get around them somehow, someway. Deer are smart, but their migration to different habitats have been engrained through generations to get to areas they know will provide the nourishment they need to survive. When those locations are blocked or have obstacles, they don’t process that information like a human and simply go another way – at least not right away.

Winter Range

Our nice super title

Wyoming winters can be harsh, and can last a while. For the most part, what do you do when winter’s grip is at its tightest? Get out of the elements, right?

Deer and other wildlife can’t do that. They’re in it 24-7. However, they can go to habitats that are “less harsh” where food, water and cover are available for their survival. This is winter range, and it is arguably the most important habitat.

Game animals enter an energy deficit state during the winter that depletes their fat reserves as they cope with the elements. Every calorie counts. The more stress these animals endure, whether it is from nature or humans, it decreases their chances of surviving the winter. The stronger and healthier these animals are coming out of winter, the better chance they have to live and reproduce throughout the rest of the year.

So What?

We are at a crossroads

So what? I’m not a deer and it doesn’t effect me.

Maybe not now, but if you live and/or recreate in Wyoming chances are you’ve encountered some of the problems with deer migration – and it can be costly.

On average there are 6,000 big-game/vehicle collisions annually in Wyoming, and 80 to 85 percent of those are with mule deer. Per big-game collision, the average injury and property damage costs are $11,600. Each year in Wyoming, collisions result in $24 to $29 million in personal injury costs, and $20 to $23 million per year in wildlife costs.

The Game and Fish, along with other wildlife and community groups, are working to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. The Wyoming Wildlife & Roadway Initiative has identified 10 areas around the state as “high priority” for action.

Underpasses and overpasses work well for migrating animals that cross roadways in the same places each year. Tack on fencing projects to that, and wildlife-vehicle collisions can be reduced by 80 to 90 percent.

Road projects isn’t the end all, be all to solving the problems associated with this issue, but they are a start to not only help animals thrive and survive, but to keep humans safe on Wyoming’s roadways.

Navigating Migration

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department seeks to maintain or improve big game migration corridors by working with land management agencies and partners in the private sector.

Migration in the News