Game and Fish Commission supports innovative mule deer project

(Cheyenne, WY) – The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met this week in Cody for its March meeting. The Commission elected Ken Roberts, representing District #3 — Uinta, Lincoln, Sublette and Teton counties — as president. Ralph Brokaw from District #2 — Sweetwater, Carbon, and Albany counties — will serve as vice president. Commissioners serve one six-year term and elect new officers annually. 

The Commission gave preliminary approval of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s FY 2023 standard and one-time project budgets. The department proposed $85.2 million for the standard budget, which pays for the bulk of the department’s day-to-date operations, salaries and projects. For one-time projects, the department proposed $5.3 million, which includes $2.5 million to support a state-of-the-art mule deer monitoring program. The innovative project is a collaboration between Game and Fish and the University of Wyoming to gather cutting-edge data to inform mule deer management decisions. Final approval of these budgets will take place at the July 2022 Commission meeting.

The department presented on statewide elk management, including the Game and Fish damage program, license structure and efforts to facilitate private land hunting through Access Yes. The Commission began preliminary discussions about strategies to reduce elk damage in Wyoming, and has directed the department to begin review of Commission regulations, Chapter 28 — Wildlife Damage Claims and Chapter 34 — Depredation Prevention Hunting Seasons.

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Game and Fish will move forward with translocating up to 30 swift foxes from eastern Wyoming this year to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana in a continued effort to bolster populations in a 5-year reintroduction effort. Wyoming previously translocated 27 foxes in 2020 and 18 in 2021. The department plans to conduct statewide population monitoring in Wyoming of swift foxes in 2023.

Construction on the new Cody Region office building is ongoing. The Commission approved an additional $320,000 in costs and remains under budget for the project. The project is forecasted to be complete in mid-August. 

The department gave an update on crossing projects to help prevent vehicle collisions with wildlife. Construction on the Dry Piney project outside of LaBarge to build 16.7 miles of fence and nine underpasses is set to begin this summer. The I-25 Kaycee-to-Buffalo project will be out for bid this summer for fencing to utilize existing underpasses on a 15-mile stretch of road. Next, the department will focus on Halleck Ridge east of Rawlins, and along U.S. Highway 189 south of Kemmerer, where traffic is expected to increase due to development over the next several years. The department also formed an internal team to lead crossings work with additional focus on fish passage and migration. 

Walleye suppression efforts are ongoing at Buffalo Bill Reservoir in Cody. The department presented an overview of work to reduce walleye numbers at the wild trout fishery. Walleye were discovered at Buffalo Bill in 2008, and present a serious threat to wild trout populations. Game and Fish has been working since then to lessen their presence to ensure sustainability of the reservoir and the North Fork Shoshone River fisheries.

Game and Fish recognized Dan Smith, interim deputy chief of the Wildlife Division, for 20 years of service to the State of Wyoming. The department also recognized Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, as the 2021 recipient of the Industry Wildlife Stewardship Award.

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