Wyoming Mule Deer Population Suffering, Fish Are Thriving
It's been a hard winter.
But it usually is when we come out of a drought cycle and back into wet weather.
So how have the animals out west fared?
With all the snow and extreme cold, some have had a tough time of it.
According to Wyoming Game and Fish, the game is suffering, but the fish are thriving.
At a recent meeting, the main topic for wildlife was mule deer. That particular population in Wyoming has declined by about 40 percent since the 90s. The main cause was disease. This past winter did not help.
But not just this winter of 2023. Six years ago Wyoming came out of another drought cycle with a harsh winter and it killed off all of the radio-collared mule deer fawns and 40 percent of females died in the Wyoming Range.
“So this is the real deal winter, and we're in the thick of it at the moment,” Ian Tator, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) terrestrial habitat manager, said to the commission.
Drought cycles have taken their toll, as well.
“And that really dominated the storyline this year, what we're talking about is kind of the opposite. And so now we have 11 percent of the state in severe, extreme drought,” he said. “And the bigger issue, obviously, is the deep, persistent snow and cold conditions that we've seen so far this winter.”
To find food, no matter if it's extreme snow or drought, the herds must move around to find something to eat. Moving takes energy. They are expending more energy than they are eating.
Still, there is some good news in all of this recent snow.
“Important forage for mule deer responds favorably to winter-spring moisture when we get that moisture into the soil profile,” Tator said. “It's kind of hard to see it at this point, but that is the good news.”
Wyoming hunting guide from Star Valley, Tedd Jenkins, spoke about his concern for the mule deer populations.
“I'm afraid that if we keep going the way we're going the last 10 years, in another 15 to 20 years, our deer are going to be really easy to count,” he said. “And I hope that we don't ever get to that point.”
As for Wyoming fish population...
“We've seen a lot of snow, we're making water, fish like water, fish should do well, any questions?,” Paul Dey, WGFD aquatic manager, lightheartedly told the commission.
Spring runoff will help the fish population even more.