Wyoming winter decimates mule deer herds

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Wyoming officials already feared the worst. And recent reports prove they were worried for a reason: 80% of adult mule deer within the Wyoming Range and the current “crop of fawns was essentially wiped out” this winter, said Wyoming Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik

Considered one of the “most prized herds in the West,” the Wyoming Range mule deer herd numbered about 30,000 going into the winter months, according to the Cowboy State Daily. However, severe winter weather resulted in deep snow and little food, decimating mule deer herds in the region along with antelope and elk – something Nesvik said he’s never seen before.

“We did see some winter elk mortality. That’s not something I’ve seen in my career,” said Nesvik.

Winterkill hit these areas the hardest: Pinedale, Kemmerer, the Green River areas, parts of Sweetwater County and Baggs. As GOHUNT previously reported, the state already proposed cutting the number of tags for the upcoming seasons. Buck tags will still be available with the number of doe tags cut to help herds bounce back. 

“We have heard from a lot of people, ‘Shut everything down,’” said Nesvik. “But buck deer don’t have babies. You can literally (have) one buck deer for every 20 does, and they’re all going to be covered.”

While cutting the number of tags benefits the animals, it could impact WGFD’s revenue as the majority of the agency’s budget comes from hunting and fishing license sales along with the federal excise taxes all hunters and anglers pay, according to the Cowboy State Daily. The agency has enough saved to keep operating per usual with larger projects like improving or building infrastructure on hold for the time being.


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