SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Driving up Morgan County at the crack of dawn with her binoculars in hand, biologist Xaela Walden begins to count deer. It’s a vital part of her job at the Utah Department of Natural Resources, but why?
There are two main reasons. Firstly, it provides an overall number that officials can use to ascertain whether they should be taking certain actions to mitigate the high or low numbers.
“Fawn-to-doe ratios are used to estimate populations overall,” Walden said.
She said the amount of fawn and does in an area determine if their population number is biologically sound; if there are too many deer fighting over their resources; and if there are too few deer to maintain the ecosystem.
Walden said population levels are also dependent on the weather.
“If we have a harsh winter, we could lose a lot of fawns. If we have a light winter, then we should see really good recruitment,” Walden said.
She added that a harsh winter two years ago, followed by a tamer winter last year and then a rainy summer meant many does have lost their fawns. But that became beneficial as it allowed them to improve physically.
“They came into this spring in really good condition, so we had a really good fawn crop this year,” Walden said.
Not only are these counts crucial to understand our ecosystem, but they’re also necessary for hunting seasons.
Counting bucks ensures there’s enough to populate the area and to be hunted.
But Walden said there is no need to worry about hunters endangering bucks.
“Our buck-to-doe ratio is much, much higher than what’s biologically needed in order to sustain deer populations,” Walden said.
Because of counts like these and the continual monitoring of the population, DNR is able to release the right number of buck hunting permits.
“It provides enough bucks on the landscape to allow a good hunting opportunity but also allows us to issue a lot of permits so lots of people get the opportunity to hunt,” Walden said.
It all comes down to the count.