Mild Winter For Wyoming Deer
With the help of local volunteers, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department conducted the seventh annual deer mortality surveys this May in western Wyoming.

G&F personnel, along with many volunteers, attempted to determine the extent of mule deer winter losses for the Wyoming Range and Sublette area winter ranges. On foot and horseback for more than 120 miles, surveyors documented deer carcasses left behind by the 1999-2000 winter.

Pinedale wildlife biologist Doug McWhirter says that mortality statistics from year to year are hard to compare because of variations in volunteer personnel and the winter range deer distribution.

"We found about half the number of mortalities this spring as we did last spring," said McWhirter. "There were 26 dead deer, mostly fawns, and mortalities were very widely spread."

McWhirter said the surveys only give a "snapshot" of winter deer losses. "From the telemetry studies, we are finding that perhaps the majority of adult losses, especially in these milder winters, sometime occur from April through June," he said. "Presumably, fawns would succumb at this time also. We don't get to see this, as the deer are even more widely scattered and further along in their migrations."

Thayne wildlife biologist Gary Fralick and his crew of volunteers found 62 dead deer on the Wyoming Range wintering areas near Cokeville and LaBarge. Fralick said that number was down from the 105 dead deer found in last year’s mortality survey on these winter ranges. "We also take into account the number of deer killed in vehicle and train collisions in Nugget Canyon each winter," Fralick said. "That was 530 deer in 1996-1997, 128 during the winter of 1998-1999 and 180 for the winter 1999-2000."

Last May, where Lander’s Starrett Junior High students found 40 deer carcasses in a selected area in Sinks Canyon, only one was found this spring. The 8th grade science honors class was led by teacher Julia Gilmer.

Like the western surveys, the minimal mortality in the Lander area was anticipated, said Tom Ryder, Lander wildlife biologist. He reports that in his Lander district, daily temperatures this winter were 9 degrees warmer than the 30-year average, plus the area has only received 50 percent of its normal moisture to date.

"The mortality surveys also give us the chance to get a hands-on look at the condition of the winter range," Fralick said. "It’s also a good chance to exchange information and ideas with the public that’s involved."

The G&F conducts the deer mortality surveys each spring and the help provided by volunteers and other agencies is much appreciated, say the coordinating biologists.

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