Collared mule deer can help Utah better manage its deer population for years to come.
Recently the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has collared mule deer to better assist them understand mule deer migration and survival rates.
Their most recent study focused on the Cache unit in northern Utah. Wildlife officials estimate the mule deer population at around 17,000, 8,000 less than their goal of 25,000 for the unit.
Wildlife officials hope the GPS-collared mule deer will help better assess winter survival rates. By understanding winter mortality rates officials hope to adjust harvest levels the following year in accordance with the estimated deer population.
To collar the animals, officials used a helicopter to swoop in on a herd while a net gunner nets the deer. With the deer netted, a “mugger” exits the chopper and takes down the deer to be blindfolded and hobbled. Once subdued the deer are attached beneath the helicopter and taken to a base camp to be collared.
In addition to using the opportunity to collar the deer, biologists can administer a litany of tests as well.
Testing looks for diseases such as chronic wasting disease, as well as body condition, and lactation.
“For this year, if they’re coming in in poor condition there’s not much we can do. They have what they have and depending on the winter they use their fat reserves and hopefully it’s enough to get them through,” said one wildlife official.
With populations around the country concerning officials, collared mule deer can help wildlife biologists better manage and conserve this precious resource.