(Green River, Wyo.) – The Muley Fanatic Foundation, a grassroots sportsmen’s and –women’s group based in southwest Wyoming, has pledged $1.3 million to solve one of the most vexing and persistent mysteries in wildlife science – the cause of West-wide mule deer population declines.
The Deer-Elk Ecology Research (D.E.E.R.) project – a collaborative venture of the Muley Fanatic Foundation, the University of Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department – aims to learn exactly what factors are hurting mule deer numbers, which of those factors are having the largest impacts, and how they interact. At question are the relationships between interspecies competition, predation, drought, habitat alteration and other challenges believed to impact mule deer. Scientists will focus on certain deer behavioral clues – diet, migration patterns and seasonal habitat selection – to tease out those relationships and, hopefully, the roots of poor population performance and buck numbers.
In perhaps the most ambitious study ever of its kind, the five-year D.E.E.R project will use five kinds of high-tech tracking devices, satellite monitoring, cutting-edge laboratory analysis, 170 helicopter enabled animal captures and the dedicated services of a full-time PhD candidate.
“Conservation efforts are only as good as the information they’re based on,” said Muley Fanatic President Joshua Coursey, explaining his organization’s hefty investment. “It’s critically important that we in the hunting community support this cause. We’re asking for help from deer enthusiasts everywhere to stop the long slide.”
Unlike conventional academic research, which is often conducted in relative isolation, the D.E.E.R. project will inform game management practices in real time, hopefully reversing alarming population trends more quickly. “UW Coop Unit research often translates into specific on-the-ground wildlife management actions. That is certainly the case for this research project – it supports our current big game management priorities and will provide important findings that can be used as soon as they are available,” said WGFD Deputy Director John Kennedy.
The Greater Little Mountain Area of southwest Wyoming will serve as the project’s laboratory. Long cherished by hunters as a marquee trophy deer area, the landscape south of Rock Springs and Green River has all of the suspected culprits – prolonged drought, habitat alteration, predation, and expanding elk populations. This suite of challenges, coupled with the composition of the landscape itself, makes the Little Mountain area an excellent stand-in for high-desert mule deer country West-wide. “What we learn about the challenges facing mule deer on Little Mountain will aid in understanding reasons behind our struggling mule deer populations in Wyoming and beyond, and what we can do to help them,” said UW Coop Unit Assistant Research Professor and D.E.E.R. project Principle Investigator Dr. Kevin Monteith.
The Muley Fanatic Foundation plans to meet the project’s $1.3 million price tag with raffles, memberships and other grassroots fundraising mechanisms. Those interested in contributing can do so by joining the foundation or purchasing raffle entries at http://www.muleyfanatic.org.
–Provided by Muley Fanatic Foundation