Corridor protected for migrating mule deer

By Jennifer Becar

Thousands of mule deer migrate through the state of Wyoming every year during the longest mule deer migration in the world. ©Greg Westfall

In a move to protect the farthest-migrating herd of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in the world, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has acquired a parcel of land encompassing a major migration corridor for the deer.

The state recently assumed responsibility for 364 acres of land, now known as the Lynch Wildlife Habitat Management Area, that are critical to the mule deer migration route. Every year, nearly 5,000 deer travel through this area as they migrate 150 miles between Fremont Lake and Pinedale in northwest Wyoming. The parcel was purchased by The Conservation Fund last year to prevent development of the land; now, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will take over management responsibility for the land, maintaining and restoring habitat to benefit mule deer and other species.

A project led by TWS Member Hall Sawyer documented a 150-mile migration that mule deer undertake every year in Wyoming. ©Wyoming Migration Initiative

A project led by TWS Member Hall Sawyer documented a 150-mile migration that mule deer undertake every year in Wyoming. ©Wyoming Migration Initiative

The migration of mule deer and other ungulates in Wyoming has recently piqued the interest of biologists and others interested in conserving these species. Among these interested parties is the Wyoming Migration Initiative, a coalition formed in 2012 as a part of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The Migration Initiative conducts research to better understand and conserve Wyoming’s migratory ungulates. In fact, it was a project lead by TWS Member Hall Sawyer, Research Associate for the Wyoming Migration Initiative and Research Biologist with Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc., that first documented the 150-mile mule deer migration now protected by the Lynch Wildlife Habitat Management Area.

Earlier this year, the Wyoming Chapter of The Wildlife Society expressed their support for a new migration policy adopted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission focused on ungulate migration. The new policy establishes proactive measures to conserve ungulate migratory corridors throughout the state, which the Commission recognizes as a vital aspect of species conservation.

Following years of research to better understand ungulate migration and proactive attempts to maintain migratory corridors, the establishment of the Lynch Wildlife Habitat Management Area is another step toward ensuring these deer can carry out their unique migration for years to come.

Watch the short film developed by research biologist Hall Sawyer and wildlife photographer Joe Riis documenting the Wyoming mule deer migration.

Becar_Headshot Jennifer Becar is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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