Nebraska Game and Parks personnel have recorded a drop in their northwest Nebraska mule deer herd once again.
Members of the Nebraska Game and Parks have recently completed the third year of an ongoing study of Nebraska mule deer focusing on the northwest Pine Ridge hunting unit.
The surveys are conducted with helicopter observations in which researchers flying over the landscape and record the number of deer they observe. This year the team flew on February 9 to 11, during the morning and evening hours of high deer activity.
This year researchers observed 636 deer in a total of 426 square miles. Last year’s study revealed 758 mule deer in the same area, and the year prior located 862. Researchers did acknowledge lack of snow cover this year made it difficult to spot deer in the terrain. The highest density of deer was found near Antelope Creek in the extreme northwest part of the state.
By conducting the five year ongoing research project, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission hopes to gather data to help them manage their mule deer populations. Mule deer around the west are struggling to maintain their populations and many populations are dropping. This drop has occurred despite low population pressure and banning the take of mule deer doe in the area. The impact of rising mountain lion populations in this unit was not noted.
While researchers noted a decrease of their Nebraska mule deer numbers, the ariel view gave them a chance to observe other species as well.
Whitetail deer numbers are on the rise in the unit according to the study, and the elk population remains strong. Researchers did note a slight decrease in bighorn sheep sightings while conducting the study.
All in all the Nebraska mule deer study is part of a larger movement in the American west to understand mule deer and their management. Hopefully this iconic western species can be understood and assisted to prosperity.