Wyoming Range mule deer

An estimated 86 percent of fawns in the Wyoming Range Mule Deer herd perished last winter. Managers are seeing signs that the herd is recovering.

Wildlife managers are meeting Tuesday to share information about two major northwest Wyoming mule deer herds, including observations that suggest the animals are rebounding from last year’s deadly winter.

Winter 2016-17 walloped the Wyoming Range and Sublette mule deer herds, which roam into the southern reaches of Jackson Hole, with almost an entire crop of fawns dying in addition to above-average numbers of adult deer fatalities. But the herd appears to have turned a corner, and does showed up to winter ranges fatter than usual.

“Provided the winter continues to stay mild, we will have extremely high over-winter survival, which will be the initial year of the recovery,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife biologist Gary Fralick said in a statement.

Game and Fish is convening a public meeting about the herds at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Teton County commissioners’ chambers. Star Valley residents can attend a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Thayne Town Hall.

In addition to the recovery from the harsh winter, Fralick and managers will also touch on habitat and population management, and research of the Wyoming Range and Sublette herds. They are among the most-studied mule deer populations in Wyoming, owing to herd management plans under the purview of the Wyoming Mule Deer Initiative.

The Game and Fish and University of Wyoming project will continue over the next three to five years, depending on winter severity, to document recovery and survival rates in each age class of fawn. The next phase of the research in March will allow managers to assess the number of fetuses that each doe is carrying, as well as each doe’s weight and body condition.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, env@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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