Casper Region Happenings

Recently, Paige Baker, a fish culturist at the Dan Speas Fish Hatchery, gave a tour to a group of kids.  See their reactions when they fed the fish!


It was a record year at Yesness Pond Kids' Fishing Day.  This event is a community effort with amazing donations for the kids by many community organizations and businesses.  Thank you for all who participated in making this event spectacular.


The Casper Region 2016 Angler Newsletter is available for all your Casper fisheries updates.


In February, Casper Region Game and Fish personnel (in conjunction with the Casper BLM) launched a three-year mule deer study to better understand the Bates Hole/Hat Six mule deer herd.  See this pdf update of the project below.


During a long-billed curlew survey in early May north of Lance Creek, Wildlife Biologist Willow Steen found three male sage-grouse displaying on a site that is over ten miles from the nearest known lek. There was also one male sharp-tailed grouse on the site as well. Game and Fish has seen an increasing number of leks in Converse and Niobrara counties with sharp-tailed grouse attending.  When returning to the lek later that day,  Steen found one female sharp-tailed grouse and a very odd-looking male. Upon further inspection, she identified the bird as a sage-grouse/sharp-tailed grouse hybrid. Game Warden Brady Vandeberg was able to snap these pictures of the hybrid a few days later. 

Newcastle Wildlife Biologist Joe Sandrini observed this sharp-tailed grouse dancing on a lek near Newcastle earlier this spring.

During recent season setting meetings, these presentations were given to the public to discuss the proposed 2017 hunting seasons.  


During recent season setting meetings, these presentations were given to the public to discuss the proposed 2017 hunting seasons.  

If you are unable to attend any of the meetings, written comments may also be mailed to:  Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Attn: Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604. Individuals may also provide comments by going online at: and clicking on Get Involved and the Public Meetings tab.  All written comments must be received by 5 p.m. on March 30, 2017 and are provided to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and field personnel for review.
In February, Casper Region Game and Fish personnel (in conjunction with the Casper BLM) launched a three-year mule deer study to better understand the Bates Hole/Hat Six mule deer herd.  Over a three-day period, 45 adult female mule deer were captured with a helicopter net-gunning crew and were fitted with satellite GPS collars to track their movements over the next three years.  The collars provide us with precise location data every four hours for the next three years.  This study will yield valuable insight into CWD prevalence and dynamics within adult female mule deer and will help us better understand annual survival rates and cause-specific mortality.  The data will help us better understand home ranges, daily and seasonal movements, define any potential migration corridors, and seasonal habitat selection - which can then be used to target future habitat improvement projects. 
The captures went very well (except for bitter cold winds for two days), with several members of the public and our Mule Deer Initiative working group, including high school and college students, also helping out.  In particular, the Game and Fish would like to thank all those private landowners that allowed access to their property to catch and collar deer.  We are pleased to report that most of the deer were in pretty good body condition considering they were caught in the late winter.  However, these deer went into the winter in pretty good shape.  Thankfully, winter conditions became pretty mild in late January with warm temperatures and persistent winds blowing forage free of snow, and have remained relatively mild since.  All in all, we think these deer should experience fairly normal over-winter survival this year.  We are looking forward to seeing what we can learn from these collared deer! 


These two white-tailed bucks were standing in the middle of the North Platte River and mostly staring into the trees and willows on the opposite bank.  Based on their behavior, there was likely a predator hiding in the vegetation that had these deer on alert.  This allowed Wildlife Management Coordinator Justin Binfet to sneak down for a closer photo.  It is interesting how one buck (on the right) had shed its right antler.  The buck on the left, which is a year or two younger, is missing it's left antler (although it was broken off and not shed). 

This white-tailed deer doe had this plastic chicken feeder on its head for a few weeks.  She was living in a rural subdivision at the base of Casper Mountain.  After repeated attempts to locate and get close enough to the deer, Game and Fish Wildlife Management Coordinator Justin Binfet was able to dart it and immobilize the deer to safely remove plastic bucket from its head.  Thankfully, the deer was able to eat just fine by poking her nose through the small opening.  She was in really good shape, and got up quickly after being given the immobilization reversal agent....and was no doubt happy to no longer be wearing her space helmet.  Thanks to all the concerned citizens who let Game and Fish know about the deer.


Even though much of January saw the Newcastle Wildlife Biologist Joe Sandrini working in his office, he was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some cool wildlife interaction.  An adult female merlin killed a Eurasian collard dove in the snow just outside his window.

Merlins are small falcons that prey on other birds.  Their wing beats are usually faster than other falcons, and they tend to be darker in color.  Merlin populations have made a strong comeback in the last 30 years thanks to the ban on DDT pesticide, and their ability to adapt to life in urban and suburban areas.

Although merlins are becoming more common, locally in Wyoming one is more likely to encounter a couple of very similar raptors:  sharp-shinned hawks and their close relative the Cooper’s hawk preying on birds in town.   All three species can be found in town in the winter near bird feeders and landscaping that attracts small birds.  They are similar in size and color plus like prey habits and life histories can make telling these three swift raptors apart tough at times.  In fact, even our biologist, Joe, had to have some help identifying this merlin.
Merlins are falcons with pointed wings, while sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks belong to a collection of hawk species often referred to as “sparrow hawks.”  They too are fast fliers, but are distinguished by shorter, broader wings.

The three species, merlins, sharp-shinned  and cooper’s hawks exhibit subtle differences in markings and relative size.  A good way to tell merlins from sharp-shinned hawks is by their dark eye, light stripe above the eye, faint mustache, light breast and belly with the dark streaks and blobs, light reddish color on the bottom of their tail, and more distinct white terminal band on their tail.  In flight sharp-shinned hawks usually glide after every few strokes, while merlins flap almost continuously.

Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks can also be easily confused, and the best way to distinguish them is by their size – but even that can be tough without something nearby to compare them to.  The sharp-shinned is smaller, about the size of a pigeon, while the Cooper’s closer to crow size.

All three species are wonderfully adapted avian killers.  They are built for fast flight in wooded and patch open country, which also lends itself well to catching prey in urban and suburban settings.  Their talent for flying and striking other birds makes them fun to watch in action, unless you are a pigeon or song bird!

Around 450 brook trout were stocked into Osage Pond.  These brookies were mostly one pound or over brook culls from the Story Fish Hatchery.


Winter Conditions in the Casper Region

The Casper Region has received above average snowfall in many areas, especially south of Casper, in the Laramie Range, and in the Black Hills.  In addition, all areas within the Region have experienced three separate protracted periods of bitter cold followed by extended warming periods with sustained high winds.  Generally speaking, winter conditions have been fairly harsh through mid-January.  There is also some snow crusting going on as warming periods that melt snow are then followed by prolonged periods of sub-freezing temperatures.  
Given winter has been above average in severity thus far, we expect some degree of elevated mortality in antelope and deer throughout the Region, particularly in fawns. To date, the only mortality that has been reported has occurred in a few fawn deer and some turkeys in the Black Hills (Sundance area).  Fortunately, antelope and deer entered the winter in relatively good body condition, which was bolstered by decent fall precipitation in many areas resulting in early fall green-up, giving them a boost of nutrition and available forage heading into winter.  In addition, the fall was extremely mild with extended periods of above-average temperatures lasting through mid-November.  However, if late winter and early spring conditions continue to experience significant snow accumulation and additional cold snaps, overwinter mortality may be higher than normal, and may even affect all age classes.  Time will tell.  As always, Casper Region personnel will continue to monitor winter conditions and big game survival throughout the spring to gauge the impacts this winter has had on wildlife populations.



The North Platte Walleyes Unlimited has developed a traveling ice fishing education unit!  If you are interested or would like more information, please call Jay at 307-267-0287.  Thanks to many local sporting good stores for helping the NPWU develop this resource for the community.

Don't forget to be safe on the ice!

West Casper Game Warden Adam Parks discovered this cow elk carcass in the Rattlesnakes while out checking elk hunters during hunting seasons this past fall.


Mule deer surveys were conducted via helicopter for the Bates Hole / Hat Six mule deer unit in early December.  Conditions were very good for flying, and Game and Fish personnel Heather O'Brien, Adam Parks, and Jacob Kettley were able to fly the unit thoroughly.  This year's sample goal was 1,200 mule deer.  Since we will never see every deer in the herd due to terrain and cover, as well as time and budget limitations, this is the number of deer that observers need to see to get an accurate representation of the herd as a whole.  Casper Game and Fish biologists were very pleased that they were able to exceed the sample goal by 500 animals, and observed a total of 1,800 mule deer! 
WGFD biologists use the information collected during helicopter surveys and apply it in computer models that simulate changes in population size and demographics.  This year, the survey resulted in a fawn ratio of 66 fawn per every 100 does, and a buck ratio of 41 buck per every 100 does.  This information along with harvest data helps biologists predict trends in the population, which is used in turn to help set appropriate hunting seasons.  
The following map shows general locations of deer from the December 2016 survey:


Wildlife biologists for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have many job duties.  They spend hours doing aerial wildlife surveys, working on wildlife management plans, tracking species of concern, and  after seeing photos submitted by Newcastle Wildlife Biologist Joe Sandrini, one thing is for sure, many hours are spent hiking and riding long distances to see how Wyoming’s wildlife and wild landscapes are doing.


Lusk Game Warden checks a hunter during hunting seasons near Lusk.



Duck banding is done annually across the country by state and federal agencies. Banding is used to estimate survival and harvest rates of many species of ducks each year. If hunters encounter a banded bird they are encouraged to report the band at Be prepared to provide the species if known, the date the banded bird was encounter, and the direction and distance to the nearest town.

This hail storm traveled along the Niobrara/Goshen county line.  It was approximately 10 miles wide and damaged habitat in its path.  Below are pictures of junipers, ponderosa pines, sagebrush and others shrubs that were stripped of needles or leaves during the storm.


A citizen living north of Glenrock called in September to report a different looking critter hanging around her horse barn.  The woman sent a photograph to confirm the presence of a young albino striped skunk on her property.  The skunk’s siblings and mother had normal coloration, but this youngster certainly appears to be a true albino, with its fur, skin, and eyes all lacking any pigmentation.  


After a cool spell in mid-September, snakes were out in full force warming up and migrating to their winter hibernacula (caves or rocky areas where they hibernate through the winter).  Casper Wildlife Biologist Heather O’Brien ran across one good-sized bull snake and four different rattlesnakes in one day while out checking antelope hunters west of Casper.


Sundance Game Warden Chris Teter worked with the nongame biologist crew to conduct night surveys for bats.  This silver-haired bat was one of 27 bats caught that evening.  

Lusk Game Warden Brady Vandeberg spotted these wild turkeys in August.  The poults appeared small for this time of year. 




Casper District Wildlife Biologist Heather O’Brien and Casper Game Wardens Adam Parks and Dylan Bergman conducted pronghorn line transect surveys in the North Natrona Herd during mid-May.  These surveys provide a population estimate that is separate from the computer model, which helps “truth” or anchor the population estimate every few years.  Conditions were very good during the survey flights, with low winds, good sunlight, and a nice green backdrop of vegetation so pronghorn were easy to spot.   Information from the survey will be analyzed over the summer and integrated into the overall population estimate for this herd.


In late May, Office Managers Deb Vincent and Kelly Lesser assisted Wildlife Supervisor Brain Olsen in releasing a snapping turtle to its natural habitat along the North Platte River.  Game and Fish wants to remind people to leave newborn wildlife alone and walk away for the animals' sake.  Changes are good that the mother is just out of sight waiting to return periodically.  For the safety of you and the wildlife, please call Game and Fish before handling wildlife.


Game Wardens Cody Bish and Adam Parks worked to secure buoys on Alcova prior to the water levels rising on the reservoir.  As boating season gets underway, don't forget to refresh yourself on boating safety and regulations.


Game and Fish employees and volunteers across the state have been up early in the mornings to conduct sage-grouse lek counts.  Check out this recent video captured in the Casper Region.


Newcastle Game Warden Troy Acherthof recently found this cow elk near Lodgepole Creek.  Can you guess how old she is?  Game and Fish biologists estimate the age of the cow elk to be 20+ years based on teeth wear.  In the past, teeth aged from elk in the Rochelle Hills area have shown some elk to be over 24 years old.


In 1999 a group of biologists worked hard to band waterfowl throughout the Central Flyway.  It was a year that 51,166 birds were banded across Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.  On September 9th, a juvenile canvasback (only 65 of the 51,166 were canvasbacks) was banded in the Casper Region near Sundance.  Amazingly, this canvasback was recently harvested near Baldy Mountain, Manitoba almost 700 miles away! 

Canvasbacks are a large diving duck that eats submerged vegetation, tubers, clams, and insect larvae.  These striking birds have a chestnut-red head and neck, a black breast, white body and black rump. 
Waterfowl and other birds are banded each year across North America. Band recovery data is used to estimate a variety of variables including; survival, harvest rate, crippling loss, and recovery rates. It is important to report all band recoveries to report

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