Mule deer and antelope mortality high due to severe winter

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Wyoming wildlife continue to suffer as winter drags on with mule deer and antelope mortality increasing every single day. Prolonged drought, which has created limited forage, coupled with sub-zero temperatures and high snowpack has animals struggling to survive with many succumbing to starvation weeks before spring green up will arrive. What’s worse, antelope are also experience a high rate of pneumonia, which has killed “at least 500 animals, primarily in the Sublette herd,” according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide

And out of 128 collared Wyoming Range mule deer does, 35% have died (compared to the 20% average) and 90% of the herd’s 92 collared mule deer fawns are dead. Fortunately, researchers say that the sampled collared fawns that have died do “not represent all fawns in the 30,000 animal herd” and some are expected to survive.

To address dwindling numbers, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) may change the number of tags available for the upcoming seasons. 

“The department is considering cutting 1,100 doe-fawn antelope tags and slashing pronghorn buck tags by half for the Sublette herd,” said Brandon Scurlock, Pinedale’s wildlife management coordinator.

Other changes under consideration include only allowing the harvest of Wyoming Range bucks if they have more than three points, signaling their maturity. However, WGFD Director Brian Nesvik called “tweaking hunting seasons a ‘short-term fix’” and that “changing hunting limitations alone wouldn’t help herds rebound.”

“In the long term, hunting seasons aren’t the answer,” said Nesvik. “We’re killing hardly any female deer, and bucks don’t have fawns. It’s all about, at the end of the day, how do we make females be productive?”

Nesvik pointed to long-term solutions like improving habitat, maintaining migration corridors and increasing predator hunting. For now, any changes that may impact the upcoming season will be made during the commission’s April meeting.

Stay tuned to GOHUNT for further updates.


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