Scientists in Wyoming have recently discovered the longest mule deer migration route that’s ever been recorded. The animals travel 150 miles, from the Red Desert to the Hoback Basin. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Hall Sawyer and Joe Riis, who have been documenting the migration. Sawyer is a research biologist at Western Ecosystems Technology, and Riis is a wildlife photographer. Sawyer says he discovered the migration route kind of by accident.
A study by the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit shows that elk are not especially stressed out by the presence of wolves.
Pregnancy rates among migratory elk herds near Yellowstone have declined, and one theory was that wolves were harassing the elk – causing them to run and hide, and depriving them of grazing opportunities.
Arthur Middleton, the lead author on the report, says elk did move around somewhat to get away from wolves, but only when the wolves were within one kilometer away. And he says wolves only rarely came that close.
An environmental group says it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to remove some corrals it says could impede pronghorn migration in western Wyoming. The group Western Watersheds sued last year over the corrals in the Bridger-Teton National Forest east of Kelly in Jackson Hole. The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports ranchers use the corral while they graze cattle on public land in the Gros Ventre River drainage. The group says the corrals weren't built in accord with federal rules and could impede antelope
Researchers hope to determine how much development mule deer can tolerate on their migration routes.
Biologist Hall Sawyer found in a recent study that when mule deer travel between their summer and winter ranges, they spend 95 percent of their time stopping and eating.
“If we consider these migration routes highways, the stopovers would be like the hotels, where you crash in for the night and grab a bite to eat,” Sawyer said. “And maybe you stay there for a night, maybe you stay for a week.”