Wildlife monitoring continues during harsh winter, Game and Fish responds to public questions

As new storms move into the state the Wyoming Game and Fish Department continues to monitor all wildlife closely and continues to be committed to keeping the public up to date on impacts.

2/24/2017 9:10:55 AM

Cheyenne - As new storms move into the state the Wyoming Game and Fish Department continues to monitor all wildlife closely and continues to be committed to keeping the public up to date on impacts. After holding an online meeting to discuss winter conditions and big game, Game and Fish wanted to express appreciation for the questions and comments it received.

“I believe there is almost complete consensus that all of the people we have heard from are concerned about wildlife and concerned about how this tough winter is causing an increase in mortalities,” Chief of the Wildlife Division, Brian Nesvik, said. “We appreciate and share this concern and we plan to respond accordingly.”

The worst winter conditions are found in western Wyoming, while conditions in eastern Wyoming are closer to an average winter.

For western Wyoming, emergency feeding of deer is one idea that has come up as a way to stave off winter losses, but it has not been documented as a an effective management practice in minimizing winter mortality for large populations of deer or antelope. Similar to other severe winters, the Game and Fish will not be pursuing emergency feeding of deer and antelope.

“There is understandable confusion on this matter because other states are using feed to bait some wildlife, but Wyoming has unique considerations, mostly the presence of wildlife diseases like adenovirus that can be compounded by feeding,” said Nesvik.

These types of winters are not uncommon in Wyoming and elsewhere in the West. The main tool to deal with a harsh winter, in the short-term, is to adjust hunting seasons for deer, antelope and elk, all classified as big game by Wyoming statute. Habitat improvement projects are longer term management actions that can help mitigate some of the impacts of harsh winters. The Commission, the Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust and a long list of partners have been engaged in these types of projects for many years through the statewide Mule Deer Initiative.

“Game and Fish has a proven track record of adaptively managing Wyoming’s wildlife through setting hunting seasons that take into account the challenging conditions wildlife are facing. As as we prepare to set big game seasons for 2017 people are encouraged to attend one of our many public meetings that will be held across Wyoming,” said Doug Brimeyer, deputy chief of the Wildlife Division.

Another consideration is the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission can make emergency changes to hunt seasons if new information comes to light after all of the snow melts. If there is a reduction in licenses after a drawing is held hunters may have the opportunity to receive a refund for their license.

At this point, it remains difficult to quantify exactly what the mortality rates will be, but there are more mortalities, mostly among deer and pronghorn fawns. “Our herds will bounce back from this and there will still be amazing opportunities for hunting and wildlife viewing in 2017. The unfortunate part of this now is that most mortalities are the fawns, so deer, antelope and elk populations won’t see the full impacts of this winter for a few years, but this winter may also improve habitat conditions, which will help all wildlife in the years to come,” said Brimeyer.

To join, the online conversation go to Game and Fish’s website at You can post questions or comments there.

One other topic that was discussed was removal of coyotes that can impact big game populations in certain conditions. At this point Game and Fish is not pursuing any additional coyote removal projects, but does appreciate public feedback on the science and research on this topic. Several peer-reviewed papers are posted online at the webpage above.

Public meetings about the 2017 big game hunting seasons will be taking place statewide starting March 16. For more information on those meetings go to

(Wyoming Game and Fish (307) 777-4600)

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