Thousands of Wyoming antelope expected dead due to winterkill

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This winter has been tough for everyone – wildlife included. In Wyoming, biologists are reporting high mortality rates among antelope and mule deer in the Red Desert and areas surrounding Rawlins. Lack forage and extreme winter conditions have resulted in dire straits – and thousands of animals are anticipated to be dead, according to the Cowboy State Daily.

Out of 33 collared antelope in one Red Desert herd, 14 have died in January. The region is home to nearly 500,000 antelope. “Based on the death of collard animals, roughly half the herd is expected to have died this winter,” said Greg Hiatt, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) biologist for the Rawlins area.

Hiatt added that “five of six radio collared mule deer died in January and February” in the Green Mountain area. 

WGFD is currently in the process of setting hunting seasons and tag limits for the fall. With antelope and mule deer still recovering from severe winters in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, hunters should expect that at least as far as antelope tags go, fewer will be offered with the number potentially cut in half. In Antelope Hunt Area 62, WGFD is “recommending no ‘type 2’ or ‘any antelope’ tags be issued at all this year,” said Hiatt.

Fortunately, the high mortality rates do not appear to be occurring statewide or for all species.

“Our yearly season-setting process is intentionally designed to be responsive to these types of situations,” said Ian Tator, WGFD terrestrial habitat program manager. “Wyoming winters can be tough. Our wildlife populations have evolved with these conditions and we have seen in the past that individuals that survive tough winters tend to flourish with the increased forage provided by the above average snowpack.”


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