LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015
Wyoming, a state known for it’s plentiful and unique wildlife, is bracing itself for an incredibly tough winter, biologists say.
Wyoming biologists are bracing for a potentially rough winter.
The historic drought that affected Wyoming during 2012 has likely been dramatic for wildlife.
Decreased snow pack and rain last winter, spring, and summer has resulted in a measurable lack of forage, leaving wildlife in poor body condition. This could significantly impact the mule deer population.
Biologists are expecting higher-than-normal mule deer mortality even if Wyoming experiences a mild winter.
A heavy snow pack, especially in the lowland deer wintering areas, would make significant mortality very likely. But, while likely devastating to mule deer, heavy snow also is just what Wyoming needs this winter.
For the long-term health of mule deer herds, substantial snowfall during the winter months is beneficial. It provides essential moisture. If good moisture conditions persist, especially in the spring, over a number of years, plants respond and habitat improves in both the quality and quantity of forage available.
At check stations this fall, hunters in many areas reported seeing good numbers of young bucks, as well as does with fawns, which bodes well for the future. Many are in poor body condition and fawns are typically smaller than they should be. This, in concert with poor forage condition on many wintering areas, is a major concern.
“Deer taken at higher elevations (this past season) had decent fat reserves,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist Lee Knox. “But deer harvested at lower elevations were in noticeably poorer condition.”