Loss of an Entire Age Class

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As if we needed it, we got some more lousy news yesterday. Two key herds of Wyoming mule deer suffered tremendous fawn winter losses during this past winter. The Sublette herd in the west-central part of the state lost 45- to 60 percent of its 2010 fawn crop. Up in the mountains—the Wyoming Range—the numbers are up to 75 percent. Game & Fish surveyors reported seeing some 400 fawn carcasses, the highest number seen since this type of data began being harvested in the early 1990s.


Although our spring has not been as wild as in other parts of the country, it has been long and cold. Snow packs are as much as 130 percent of normal. Rivers are high and fast as reservoirs dump their inventory to accommodate the melting snow—which will begin soon. Cold temperatures, high water, a lack of mid-range habitat and predation are sure to exacerbate these losses. For all intents and purposes, we have lost an entire age class of mule deer.


The impact on hunters should not be too significant this year and, perhaps, next. But the deer hunting in three to five years will be pretty sorry in this part of the state. That is something to keep in mind for those planning on a future mule deer hunt. This area is also seeing an increase it its wolf population. Grizzlies are not unknown to the area as well. You can count on their presence to retard any recovery of the mule deer population.


I wish there was something or someone to blame for this, but the simple fact of the matter is that this is nature. However, there is plenty of blame to go around regarding our ability to minimize the impact and maximize the recovery of these herds. Given our current level of animal husbandry technology and the competition from predators, it is impossible to stockpile mule deer. The federal government forbids us from managing large predators like the wolf and grizzly. That, of course, effectively ties our hands in mitigating these otherwise natural cycles. And that is a crying shame.


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2 Responses to Loss of an Entire Age Class

Douglas wrote:
June 17, 2011

This is why modern game conservation is so important. We need to get the courts and the non-professionals out of the loop and allow the pros to do their jobs.

ericb wrote:
June 13, 2011

The antelope loss in the northern hunting disticts of MT is so bad that some areas are being taken out of the permit drawings.