Photo credit: Wyoming Migration Initiative
Photo credit: Benjamin Kraushaar and Wyoming Migration Initiative
Mo the mule deer is a social media maven and the official “spokesdeer” of the Wyoming Migration Initiative. Outfitted with a GPS collar, Mo’s whereabouts are shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (with a few week delay to protect her safety) as a way to really illustrate what’s behind mule deer migration. Like many mule deer, Mo travels from her winter range near Superior, Wyoming to her summer range in the Gros Ventre Mountains every year. By sharing her journey in almost real-time, researchers are using this particular mule deer as an educational outreach tool.
“We felt there was a much broader migration story that the public wasn’t really aware of,” Matt Kauffman, director and co-founder of the Wyoming Migration Initiative told the WyoFile. “We let the animal tell the story.”
That story includes a 140-mile migration route that was first documented in 2012. It is also one of the longest known mule deer migrations in the world, the WyoFile reports. The Wyoming Migration Initiative also uses Mo’s social media following to share migration-related issues that many may not otherwise be aware of; for example, how migration is impacted by topography and development.
Kauffman says it’s a way to get people “invested in conserving disappearing migration corridors.”
“So few of these migrations still persist,” says Kauffman. “They have been lost elsewhere in the world and even elsewhere in the American West.”
Creating a “spokesdeer” for migration puts a “face” to the movement and more people become invested in Mo’s health and vitality because of this social media connection. Prior to Mo, the organization used another mule deer dubbed “Jet” that died during a particularly bad winter.
For now, Mo helps the Wyoming Migration Initiative inform the public about what mule deer face on a daily basis. If you want to follow along with Mo (or a future “spokesdeer”) make sure to follow the Wyoming Migration Initiative on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. They regularly post updated maps, photos and observations.