The Secret Migration of Mule Deer

While most hunters consider birds to be migratory fowl, little do most hunters there is a migration in our midst. Unbeknownst to many, scientists have recently discovered that both mule and white deer populations are declining, ultimately migrating to other areas.

Scientists discovered that a herd of mule deer travels more than 150 miles between Red Desert and Hoback Basin, based on winter and summer ranges. In fact, nearly 90-percent of Wyoming’s deer population is migratory, which also includes bison, elk, whitetail deer, mule deer, moose, mountain goats and big horn sheep. These animals will cross barriers and extensive structures, including man made highways, fences and reservoirs to freely migrate and roam. If, however, these migratory corridors are eliminated, entire herds of animals could literally disappear.

Scientists hope to rally concern about these migrations, raising awareness on both private and federal levels. The Wyoming Migration Initiative is a part of the University of Wyoming Department of Zoology and Physiology, Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

This group contributes to great advancements in studying big game migratory species. Their knowledge and scientific studies help state wildlife departments determine the number of annual tags to issue for big game. These tag numbers vary each year and are dependent upon migration phenomenon, global impacts and large animal productivity.

Migratory elk species are now at a substantial risk for attack – up to four times greater for grizzlies and wolves – which are substantial increases over past years. More animals that are migratory travel substantial distances to sufficiently feed themselves and their young; the ecological changes of today’s world have greatly influenced these behaviors.

These scientists also promote safe crossing structures for migratory mule deer and vehicles. In an attempt to reduce deer and vehicle accidents, the Wyoming Department of Transportation installed box-culvert underpasses that highlight game-proof fencing. This helps decrease human injury and death, while also preserving migratory mule deer herds. Effective fencing materials have helped reduce collisions by an impressive 81-percent.

Peak migratory seasons begin in autumn and continue until mid-December. Spring migratory movements begin in mid-March and continue through early May. Scientists have discovered these migratory episodes are highly dependent on ecological events surrounding plants, as animals are sensitive to any changes in climate.

Jumping Targets promotes responsible hunting and animal preservation. They strive to promote safe hunting practices so tomorrow’s future will be able to experience the joys of hunting big game. To prepare children early for hunting, Jumping Targets recommends using steel rifle targets. These metal spinning targets are easy for families to use, helping improve accuracy and aim amongst all age groups.


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