Idaho reports "slightly above average" survival rates in mule deer and elk


Photo credit: Hermera Technologies

In Idaho, mule deer fawn and elk calf survival rates were up, following the latest data collected from animals outfitted with tracking collars. To date, 84% of fawns and 92% of calves have survived through the end of winter, putting their statewide winter survival rate “slightly above average,” according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG).

“From a statewide perspective, winter survival is tracking very close to what we saw in past two years,” said Toby Boudreau, IDFG deer and elk program coordinator. “If we continue on that trajectory, that's good news because we ended up with above-average winter survival in both 2019-20 and 2020-21. And every mild winter we can stack together is another step in the right direction for our mule deer herds.”

Currently, there are 222 mule deer fawns and 201 elk calves outfitted with tracking collars. 

Even though the winter weather may be behind them, biologist caution that the young animals are not quite in the clear as cooler spring weather can also be fatal, which means IDFG will continue to monitor them through late spring. In fact, March and April are usually the worst months for fawn survival as their “fat reserves are largely depleted and their digestive systems need time to convert to digesting fresh, green forage,” according to the agency.

“We are doing pretty well through the end of February, but at this point, it's too early for us to assume anything about the final survival numbers,” said Boudreau.

“At this stage, how soon winter truly ends, and how soon we start to see that spring ‘green-up’ on south-facing slopes is really the critical factor. If we continue to have warm, sunny weather through March and April, we should see survival numbers come in similar the past two years and above the long-term average.”

How does the current survival rate compare to previous years? Here’s a breakdown from 2016 to 2021:

  • 83 and 92 percent in 2020-21
  • 84 and 92 percent in 2019-20
  • 78 and 93 percent in 2018-19
  • 88 and 91 percent in 2017-18
  • 55 and 80 percent in 2016-17

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