Mule Deer Research in Utah, April 2011


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  • We are sampling (51) 3 mile sections of the contractor routes. The locations were selected using proportional sampling, which means that highway sections with a larger number of carcasses had a higher probability of being included in the sample. This design allows us to focus the majority of our effort in areas where deer are being hit, but also allows us to sample a small number of sections where few deer have been recovered by contractors in the past, so we make sure that these are actually areas with low a number of DVCs and are not just neglected by the contractors.
  • Mule Deer Research in Utah, April 2011

    1. 1. Mule Deer Research in Utah <ul><li>Mule Deer Plan Population Objective Strategies h & k </li></ul><ul><li>Implement a method to collect annual adult doe and fawn mortality estimates on representative units statewide </li></ul><ul><li>Implement research studies on specific herd units that are chronically below population objective to identify problems and recommend solutions </li></ul>
    2. 2. What’s limiting deer population growth? <ul><li>Knowledge gaps </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Birth rates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cause specific mortality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Effect of coyote control on fawn survival rates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Habitat limitations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Competition with elk </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fawn and adult survival rates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Highway mortality estimates </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. What causes fawn mortality and how effective is coyote control? <ul><li>We are currently working with BYU and USU to design a study investigate fawn survival from birth to 6 months. </li></ul><ul><li>This study will also look at cause specific mortality for fawns </li></ul><ul><li>We also want to estimate coyote density and study the effect that coyote control has on fawn survival rates </li></ul>
    4. 4. How will this information help increase deer populations? <ul><li>Once we know what is killing fawns, we can take measures to minimize that mortality </li></ul><ul><li>If coyote control is not currently effective, we can improve our methods to make it more effective </li></ul>
    5. 5. Is habitat limiting? <ul><li>Utah Range Trend Studies have documented a steady decline in the quality of mule deer habitat </li></ul><ul><li>We currently have no research looking at how habitat quality and quantity limits population growth </li></ul><ul><li>Recent studies in Colorado and Idaho have shown that habitat quality and quantity is the main factor limiting population growth </li></ul>
    6. 6. Are elk competing with deer? <ul><ul><li>Few studies looking specifically at deer elk competition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Although there is certainly some dietary overlap, none have irrefutable evidence that elk and deer directly compete for resources </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There may be some indirect effects that are extremely difficult to tease out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Even if research showed a negative impact of elk on mule deer, is it realistic to decrease elk populations ? </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. What is the annual survival rate of adult does and fawns ? <ul><li>7 units were chosen statewide to represent surrounding units </li></ul><ul><li>Adult does and doe fawns were captured on each unit and fitted with radio collars to estimate annual survival </li></ul><ul><li>Initial project cost was $381,000 and will cost $224,000 annually </li></ul><ul><li>We hope to continue this study as long as we can because it provides us the best possible survival data </li></ul>Ballard et al. 2001
    8. 9. What is the annual survival rate of adult does and fawns ? <ul><li>Statewide adult survival rate was 86% </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Higher than expected (85%) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Statewide fawn survival rates were 52% </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower than expected (60%) </li></ul></ul>
    9. 10. How will this information help increase deer populations? <ul><li>Once we know survival rates in a specific area, we can more accurately determine if populations are increasing or decreasing </li></ul><ul><li>If certain units have higher than expected mortality, we can investigate and try to minimize the cause of that mortality </li></ul><ul><li>Over winter mortality can be estimated more accurately, this lets us know when winters are severe enough to require supplemental feeding </li></ul>
    10. 11. How many deer are killed on Utah highways? <ul><li>We currently have a rough estimate of road killed deer from road kill pick up </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Picked-up 4,209 carcasses in 2008 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drastically underestimating the true value </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We do not know the number of deer that are hit and killed by vehicles but are not recovered </li></ul><ul><li>We initiated a study through USU to estimate highway mortality using road kill collection </li></ul><ul><li>This will be a 3 year study with a cost of $364,000 </li></ul>
    11. 12. USU Highway Mortality Study <ul><li>51 sampling location </li></ul><ul><li>3 mile segments </li></ul><ul><li>153 miles highway </li></ul><ul><li>9% of contractor miles </li></ul><ul><li>Sites are selected seasonally </li></ul>
    12. 13. How many deer are killed on Utah highways?
    13. 14. How many deer are killed on Utah highways? <ul><li>Preliminary data from July 1st to September 30th </li></ul><ul><li>Contractors have recovered 12.5% of tagged carcasses </li></ul><ul><li>For every deer collected by contractors, 7 more are being killed </li></ul>
    14. 15. How many deer are killed on Utah highways?
    15. 16. How many deer are killed on Utah highways?
    16. 17. How many deer are killed on Utah highways? <ul><li>In December 2010, we will GPS collar 31 adult female deer ( > 2 years) </li></ul>
    17. 18. How many deer are killed on Utah highways? <ul><li>GPS collars will last 1.5 years (Dec 2010 to May 2012) </li></ul><ul><li>Survival and movements </li></ul><ul><li>Frequency of road crossings </li></ul><ul><li>Proximity to roads </li></ul><ul><li>Home range positioning </li></ul><ul><li>Use of wildlife crossings </li></ul><ul><li>Movement near wildlife fencing </li></ul>
    18. 19. How will this information help us increase deer populations? <ul><li>Knowing the number of deer killed on the highways will help us convince UDOT that crossing structures are needed </li></ul><ul><li>The GPS data will help us determine how deer interact with the fences and crossings </li></ul><ul><li>This information will help us improve crossing design and location </li></ul>
    19. 20. DWR Research Summary <ul><li>The DWR is proactively conducting research needed to find out what is limiting mule deer populations </li></ul><ul><li>The DWR will spend $1.4 million in the next 4 years on mule deer research </li></ul><ul><li>The DWR is looking at spending an additional $500,000 to fund the fawn cause specific mortality and coyote control effect study </li></ul><ul><li>This research will help focus our efforts in the areas where they are needed most </li></ul>
    20. 21. Thank you