It was a tough winter on the deer and elk populations in many western states.
As if diseases like EHD and CWD weren’t enough, this past winter came through in intense ways that put a hurting on much of the deer and elk populations in western states. From colder temps to record snow fall, mother nature was in full effect. Let’s take a look at how your favorite western hunting state fared.
Untimely high snowfall did serious damage to the fawn population. Andy Holland, big game manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, suggests that only 20-25% of fawns survived in the South-central part of the state. The deer herd in the northern part of the state didn’t fair much better. Mule deer licenses availability will be very limited this year. Officials have reduced the number of buck tags by 60% and doe tags by 80%.
A brutal winter reeked havoc on Idaho’s mule deer population. Survival rates for fawns in one area were as low as 3%. This was the third worst winter for fawn survival in the past 18 years, according to Idaho Fish and Game representative, Roger Philips.
A staple of hunters for both deer and elk, Wyoming was definitely not immune to issues this winter. According to Bob Lanka, wildlife supervisor with the state’s Game and Fish Department, this was the worst winter the state has seen in more than 30 years. What animals were impacted? You name it. Antelope and mule deer both saw significant losses. Elk losses were higher than usual as well. This is cause for much concern for officials considering the hardiness of elk.
The state took steps to supplement the feeding of mule deer throughout the harsh winter months. However, that didn’t stop above-average losses from taking place in the northern part of the state. Officials suggest only 10% of fawns survived the winter. Justin Shannon with the Division of Wildlife Resources blamed above-average snowfall in some early storms that caused snow depths to be 1.5x normal in many areas.
The number of deer and pronghorn antelope tags are being reduced this year thanks to the tough winter months. Elk suffered near-average losses while mule deer survival rates dropped 70% below normal.
Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep took the largest hit. The endangered sheep saw nearly 10% of the entire population fail to survive the winter. With a population of only 500-600, these losses are considered significant. Officials attribute avalanches and deep snow covering food as the two primary reasons for the losses.
Record low survival rates for the state’s three primary elk herds has hunters and officials worried. Calf-to-cow ratios were down by an astonishing 50% this winter. That’s forcing officials to drastically reduce the number of elk hunting permits available for the year.
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