Mule deer in Wyoming will see the on-the-ground benefits of more than $3 million in 2020. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved $560,000 to support 10 projects for mule deer across the state. This funding comes alongside support from partnering organizations to support the Statewide Mule Deer Initiative, about 4.4 dollars for every Commission dollar.
The MDI projects will benefit nine mule deer herds and improve habitat on more than 1.2 million acres.
“These projects will further our understanding of movement and habitat selection, and directly improve habitats that mule deer rely on,” said Ian Tator, statewide terrestrial habitat manager. “The nine mule deer herd units where this funding is focused represent 44% of the total mule deer population in the state.”
Improving mule deer habitat is the focus of much of the funding. In the Lander region, the Pine Creek and Loop Road Aspen Enhancement will reduce conifer encroachment in aspen habitats, treating 700 acres. Healthy aspen stands provide cover and forage for mule deer. Since 2015, nearly 2,000 acres have been treated as part of the South Pass Aspen Project.
The Crazy Woman Watershed Project south of Buffalo and the Hoback Cheatgrass Project in Teton County will combat the spread of cheatgrass, which reduces native plant productivity and increases the risk of fire.
Chronic wasting disease management is a priority for Game and Fish, and one of the projects examines the influence of CWD in Deer Hunt Areas 66 and 67 south of Casper. The disease was found in 29 percent of adult bucks in 2017 and 2018, and 26 percent of yearling bucks in 2018.
Other projects look to improve and enhance fencing within mule deer migration corridors and to collect data that allows managers to identify mule deer patterns, habitat selection and use, cause-specific mortality and corridor movements.