Project studies mortality rate of Utah mule deer

Story by The Associated Press
December 26, 2011
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LOGAN — An ongoing wildlife study is tracking the mortality rates of Utah’s mule deer population.

The Herald Journal of Logan reports preliminary data from the three-year program has found about 85 percent of adult female deer survive from year to year. Only 50 percent of fawns survive.

Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Mark Hadley said the study began in 2009. Biologists tagged more than 400 deer that year with electronic collars in seven areas across the state.

If the collar stops moving for an extended period of time, it sends a mortality signal to biologists.

Vehicle collisions, cold weather and diet are all factors in deer mortality, but that’s not the point of the study, said Phil Douglass, the division’s conservation outreach manager.

"It’s not to determine why they died," said Douglass. "It’s to determine how long they’re living."

Douglass said Hardware Ranch in northern Utah’s Blacksmith Fork Canyon historically has deer populations around 3,000. In recent years, however, that number has been as low as 1,000.

"We’re trying to get those numbers back up, and understanding all we can about survivability is going to help us," he said.

The data will help the division better manage mule deer populations, which are considered an important natural resource, Hadley said. A good number of adult females and fawns, he said, are a good indicator of a healthy mule deer population.

"The study is focused on the female part of the population," Hadley said. "One buck can breed several does, but if there’s no does there to breed, the herd won’t do as well."

The project has an annual cost of about $224,000.

"It’s a top priority for us to manage the deer so that there’s as many deer as possible for people to enjoy viewing and hunting," Hadley said. "People in this state are passionate about it, and we are, too."



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