Fish & Game News

March 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Fish & Game News

Studies of different states…



WAFWA   The mule deer working group

Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies



“This is a must read!  I’ve read it a number of times and find myself referring back to it often!”

Steve Alderman, Founder MULE DEER



State Studies




“What Idahoans want as far as hunting is concerned”


The Mule Deer Initiative
Mule Deer for the Future

Mule deer populations20are not what they used to be, throughout the West, or here in Idaho. That is why the Idaho Department of Fish and Game launched the Mule Deer Initiative in 2004. Fish and Game is committing more people and more resources to protect and improve habitat, increase mule deer numbers, manage predators, provide more hunter access, and keep the hunting public informed and involved.
This website section will provide you with information regarding what’s being done for mule deer in Idaho and how it’s working. So stay tuned and stay in touch!


Mule Deer Initiative Newsletters



“Deer and Elk Interactions”

ISU/IDFG study Tex Creek elk-deer interactions

Tex Creek deer 

Tex Creek deer

Idaho State University and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are joining forces on a research project at the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area east of Idaho Falls to try to better understand how deer and elk populations affect one another.

Mule deer and elk populations in the Tex Creek WMA are mirroring what is happening to the populations of these species on a larger scale in many areas of the Rocky Mountain Region: Mule deer numbers are declining dramatically, while elk numbers are increasing.
While plenty of studies have documented that mule deer tend to avoid high densities of elk, the ISU/IDFG study is unique because it is attempting to answer the “so what?” questions, such as does this avoidance by the mule deer affect their overall productivity or survival. The answers will help biologists understand how to better manage big-game herds. The ISU researchers are biological sciences research professor Dr. John G. Kie and his biological sciences master’s student Paul Atwood.
I think the study is important because it looks at elk-deer competition here in eastern Idaho,” said Toby Boudreau, IDFG wildlife biologist and coordinator of the IDFG’s Mule Deer Initiative Program. “Over the past 15 years we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of elk and overall decrease in deer numbers at Tex Creek, and we don’t know exactly what the dynamics of that relationship is.”
Tex Creek elk herd 

Tex Creek elk herd

This winter,=2 0ISU researchers and IDFG biologists and technicians will start rounding up mule deer and elk in the WMA. They will be putting radio/global positioning system collars on 20 female mule deer and 18 female elk. Putting collars on animals this size, particularly the elk, is not an easy task. The animals will be herded by helicopter and driven into nets, be captured in nets shot out from helicopters or darted with a sedative, and then radio-collared. Biologists are radio-collaring the big-game animals to help them collect data on the animals’ behaviors for the next two years.

Over the last 15 to 20 years, wintering mule deer wintering on the Tex Creek WMA have fallen by about 50 percent to about 1,500 animals, while elk numbers have about doubled to around 5,000 animals, according to Atwood.
The radio/GPS collars on the deer record 12 locations per day. The collars are programmed to drop off the deer in about one year, and biologists will collect the collars and download the data. Then another 20 mule deer will be collared and the process will be repeated. The ISU researchers will also begin conducting monthly aerial surveys and will track the animals’ movements.
Elk are larger animals and can wear larger, heavier collars. The GPS collars on the elk will record six locations a day, and the collars will drop off in two years.
The biologists will be using the data downloaded from the collars to plot areas of high use by mule deer and elk on th e winter range. The ISU researchers also will be studying the juvenile survival rates of deer, and the physical condition of elk and deer. They will track the animals on their summer range, to study a number of other factors, such as to see if mule deer displaced by elk are more or less likely to raise single or twin fawns.
Wintering elk 

Wintering elk
“There’s good evidence that mule deer will avoid big concentrations of elk, but we’re looking at what effects that displacement cau ses,” Kie said. “There is direct and indirect competition between deer and elk. Elk can physically displace deer, but the elk may also be modifying the habitat the deer are using. We’ll be looking at the survival rates of the displaced deer, and we hope to continue with studies of competition on summer range.”
Deer/elk interactions are complex, and so is the management of both species. With more information, biologists will have more options available for effective management. For example, an obvious way to reduce elk numbers is to increase the number of hunting tags, the length of hunting seasons and access to hunting areas. However, this can have detrimental side effects, such as a negative perception of hunting by a portion of the public. If, for example, biologists found elk were pushing deer out of wintering areas at lower elevations, extended hunting seasons for elk at lower elevations could be implemented. An action such as this could potentially push elk out of the lower elevations. This would allow deer access to winter feed, and perhaps have elk take refuge at higher elevations.
Dr. Kie currently is serving as an ISU research professor as part of a long-term personnel assignment from the U. S. Forest Service.  His research interests include land-scape ecology and the ecology and management of large mammals such as elk, deer and moose. He has a particular interest in modeling animal movements as a way to explore their effects on ecosystems. He has won a=2 0number of professional awards, including the prestigious Olof C. Wallmo Award from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in recognition of outstanding contributions to knowledge and improved management of mule and black-tailed deer.
Atwood has conducted mule deer, elk and moose research for the IDFG for the last three years, including a winter at Tex Creek.




Responses of Elk and Mule Deer to Habitat Grazed by Livestock

-Michael Marsh-
Much of the work reported below, which was chiefly performed by range and wildlife scientists,
was stimulated by a 1975 paper by Anderson and Sherzinger, in which they speculated on the
relationship between an increase in Roosevelt elk populations and grazing by domestic livestock
on lands used by both. These authors proposed that livestock grazing preconditions vegetation
for wild ungu lates, Roosevelt elk and mule deer. (click link below)



Habitat guidlines for mule deer.   The Colorado Plateau.

“Mule deer and Black tail (collectively called mule deer, Odocoileus Hemionus) are icons of the American west.  Probably no other animal represents the West beter in the minds of Americans.  Because of their popularity and wide ditrabution, mule deer are one of the most economically and socially important animalls in the western North America.  A survey of outdoor activities”  “read more” (click link).






By John Weier
April-June 2008 (Vol. 9, No. 2)
For millennia, deer have protected their newborns by stashing them deep in the brush, where they stay until they’re strong enough to run away from predators. That’s good news if you’re a fawn struggling to survive. But what if you’re Chad Bishop, a researcher with the Colorado Division of Wildlife whose work depends on finding baby deer when they’re hidden and immobile?
To understand why certain deer populations are on the decline, Bishop gathers data by attaching radio collars to the animals shortly after they’re born. In the past, this meant stalking a pregnant doe for days, waiting to see where she hid her fawn. Now, Bishop is among a growing number of researchers using a new tool that could help study everything from moose to zebras: small transmitters that pop out of an animal’s birth canal to signal the location of its young.
To use the device, researchers must first capture female deer right after mating season, then give them an ultrasound to see whether they’re pregnant. Expectant does are implanted with the transmitter, a wishbone-shaped instrument inserted into the vagina. What makes the transmitter unique is its specially designed silicon wings, which retract as the transmitter is inserted and then fold out to hold it in place. When the animal goes into labor, the fetus travels down the birth canal and dislodges the device. Once expelled, the instrument detects the difference between the warm deer and the cold ground and broadcasts a pulse that tells researchers where to find the fawn.
The transmitter was developed by Jake Bowman, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Delaware, and Harry Jacobson of Mississippi State University. And, although it’s still being perfected, the invention is already helping researchers like Bishop unravel mysteries about why some species are struggling. In one of the largest studies yet conducted using the transmitters, Bishop found and tagged nearly 300 newborn mule deer on the Uncompahgre Plateau in southern Colorado. His goal: determine why their local population had fallen by half over the past 20 years.
Bishop knew that human development and declining habitat were diminishing the animals’ food supply. But no one understood exactly why a large number of fawns were dying at an unusually young age. Bishop thought the animals might simply be starving. Others thought the fawns, weakened by lack of food, were falling prey to predators and disease.
By monitoring newborn deer, Bishop proved himself right. The young animals weren’t putting on the weight they needed to make it through the winter, a discovery that could help state wildlif e managers restore the deer population. Without the transmitters, “there was just no way we could have captured enough fawns to make this study possible,” Bishop says.
The transmitters could eventually be used on a wide variety of animals, but Bishop says they have flaws that must first be addressed. Most notably, the wings sometimes don’t keep the devices in place throughout an entire pregnancy. In a recent study in the Journal of Wildlife Management, Bishop detailed how one-third of the implanted transmitters fell out before the mule deer gave birth.
The company that manufactures the device, Advanced Telemetry Systems of Isanti, Minnesota, is working to address these flaws, and Bishop believes the problems aren’t major enough to hinder the device’s overall promise. “In all, these transmitters are an exciting field technique that can improve the ability to understand some complex interactions,” he said.


Left: The device’s wings hold it inside a doe’s birth canal until she goes into labor. Then the transmitter is expelled and broadcasts a signal that pinpoints the fawn’s location. Photo courtesy of Colorado Division of wildlife


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