A research study of the movements of mule deer in the northern Bighorn Mountains will expand in coming weeks with the deployment of radio collars on adult does beginning August 1. The deer will be captured by a professional capture crew using helicopter net guns as well as by Game and Fish personnel on the ground using immobilization techniques.
The goals of the study are to identify mule deer seasonal range and habitat use and document fawn production and three-to-six month fawn survival rates.
On March 5, 2020, 25 does were captured on winter range on the eastern and western foothills of the Bighorns and fitted with radio collars by a professional wildlife capture crew. The captures in August will target does on high-elevation summer range.
The GPS collars will record the position of each animal every two hours for the next three years, before automatically releasing from the animal. Once-daily position updates will be available to biologists throughout the study, while the finer-scale, two-hour movements will be stored onboard the collar and retrieved at the end of the study.
If an animal dies during the study, a mortality signal will be sent to the local wildlife biologist who will search for the animal’s carcass, determine the cause of death and collect biological samples.
“Three deer of the 25 deer collared in March have died, with two of the mortalities attributed to malnutrition,” said Sheridan Wildlife Biologist Tim Thomas. “The deer were in poor body condition with little fat reserves and were found after a spring snowstorm. The third mortality was the result of mountain lion predation. The collars were retrieved from each animal and will be redeployed in August.”
The study is a collaborative project between Wyoming Game and Fish, The Nature Conservancy, Sheridan Community Land Trust, the Bighorn National Forest, the Wyoming Migration Initiative and the University of Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
The project has received generous financial support from the Knobloch Family Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Sheridan Community Land Trust, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, the Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3362 and the Cody Chapter of Muley Fanatics.