Miles City– Forty mule deer in Regions 6 and 7 were recently captured and fitted with GPS (global positioning system) collars as part of a larger study looking at the effects of energy development on mule deer.
Last year, in light of the increasing energy development overlapping with primary mule deer range in North Dakota, the North Dakota Game and Fish initiated a 5-year research project (3-year field season) to investigate the effects of energy development on mule deer space use, survival and demographics. The addition of collared mule deer in Montana to the concurrently running mule deer study in North Dakota could serve as an excellent opportunity to establish pre-energy development data on mule deer resource selection, survival, abundance and demographics and also serve as a control for the North Dakota study where energy development is already underway.
“Our collars were put in areas that have not been developed yet to serve as a control area for the study. It’s a great opportunity to team up with or colleagues in North Dakota and to learn more about what local deer are doing, where they’re going, how healthy the population is and causes of mortality. You always learn things you didn’t even know you were looking for when you put out radio or GPS collars,” said Melissa Foster, Glendive area Wildlife Biologist.
The study is expected to provide valuable pre-development demographic data (reproduction, survival, abundance, and distribution), resource selection data, and any avoidance information they detect from collared deer. This information, together with the results of the larger study, will provide region-specific data to better manage mule deer through landscape changes associated with energy and natural resource development.
(Report by Montana FWP; Feature photo: nps.gov)