Wyoming Game and Fish
In mid-January, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will begin aerial captures of mule deer in the North Bighorn Mountains as part of the new statewide Mule Deer Monitoring Project.
Mule deer in Wyoming and throughout the West have declined in recent decades. The most recent population peak in Wyoming was in 1991, when about 578,000 mule deer inhabited the state, but by 2016 numbers were reduced to an estimated 396,000 animals.
The Mule Deer Monitoring Project, initiated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, seeks answers as to why this decline has happened and to identify potential solutions. The study is being conducted in partnership with the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, and the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab. Through various methods, the project will collect data on five focal mule deer herds around Wyoming for the next five years.
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In addition to increased ground and aerial population surveys, just over 1,000 animals will be fitted with GPS collars. Of those, 210 will be collared in the North Bighorns deer herd. The