Regional Offices > Laramie Region > Laramie Region News > Collars drop off Sheep Mountain mule deer

Collars drop off Sheep Mountain mule deer

April 29, 2019
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Two-year mule deer study comes to an end

Laramie -

Laramie Region wildlife biologists collected approximately 80 satellite GPS collars that dropped off mule deer following the end of a two-year study to learn more about migration routes and doe survival.

The study area encompasses Mule Deer Hunt Areas 74, 75, 76 and 77, ranging from the Colorado border up to the town of Hanna. It involved fitting 80 mule deer does with GPS collars to provide biologists with detailed information on the Sheep Mountain mule deer herd at regular intervals throughout the project’s two-year duration.

The collars were programmed to drop off the deer on April 1. A signal is sent to the collars and a small mechanism opens to release the clasps holding the collar in place. The collars then fall off the deer as they go about their normal behavior. Biologist use telemetry equipment or GPS coordinates to locate and recover the collars.

The collars stored a deer’s location using GPS coordinates every two hours since early 2017. “Every seventh time it stores a location, about once a day, the collar will send that data to a satellite,” said Wildlife Biologist Lee Knox. Every three to four months biologists pulled data for all the locations to learn where each collared deer has traveled. This has provided great large scale information, such as where deer are geographically spending time throughout the year. Now biologists will spend the next year analyzing the data at a very fine scale and will have results by early summer 2020.

The data from the study will provide wildlife managers with critical data on where mule deer cross roads, identify possible migration barriers such as fences, help pinpoint any bottlenecks during migration, and discover where does go to have their fawns. Data from the study will also help wildlife managers prioritize areas for future habitat improvement projects and learn more about doe survival to improve the precision of the population models.

The 2018 post-season population estimate for the Sheep Mountain mule deer herd is approximately 6,300 deer, about 37 percent below the population objective of 10,000 deer. Fawn recruitment has been poor with fawn ratios below the standard ratio of 66:100 fawns for the past eight out of ten years. Currently, biological data available for this herd is limited to classification data collected on annual survey flights. The collaborative Mule Deer Initiative process has identified several research objectives to improve management of this herd.

The project is a joint effort between the University of Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Other partners include Muley Fanatics Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Bow Hunters of Wyoming and the Albany County Predatory Board and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

- WGFD -

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