Wildlife officials study how harsh winter impacts mule deer population

Local News

HYRUM, Utah (ABC4 News) – Winter can be the harshest predator for Utah animals, and this season we’ve seen an abundance of snow, so wildlife biologists are closely monitoring our mule deer population.

The Division of Wildlife Resources teamed up with Brigham Young University back in 2014, and started researching mule deer does at the beginning and end of winter.

“They are starting to die from malnutrition and we need this snow to melt off so they can get to green vegetation. In some areas, we have really good winter range and they haven’t lost weight as quickly,” said Brock McMillian, BYU professor of wildlife biology.

Wildlife crews and BYU crews expected deer in parts of the state to face challenges after our extreme winter.

“It’s good information to have with this heavier winters, how does that impact deer. Their survival, their condition, and the overall, the health of the herd,” said Kent Hersey, a wildlife biologist with DWR.

The field research study involves a helicopter finding collared deer, a crew shooting a net gun at the deer, then flying the animals to wildlife crews. Biologists conduct a series of tests including blood draws, mineral tests for nutrition, age determination, ultrasounds and vaginal implants to track fawns.

“We do an intensive work up, so we can get as much information on the deer herd as we can,” said Hersey.

This is the last year testing will take place at the end of winter. It’s expensive research, and biologists say they’ve collected a tremendous amount of research in the last five years.

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