Oregon DFW starts tracking mule deer

mule deer

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has made a great move toward better management of mule deer in the Blue Mountains area of the state, centered around John Day. What better way for the ODFW to do it than to use technology to give a more accurate picture of what the mule deer are doing, at the time they are doing?

The old methods of visual on-the-ground sighting, air recon and capturing mule deer and affixing them with ear tags was expensive and not very efficient. It was also not accurate. While the old method did help with ODFW mule deer management, it had some obvious flaws and led to a model that wasn’t up to date.

There are usually many environmental factors that affect mule deer herds on a yearly basis. This means that the management model simply can’t be kept up to date using the conventional methods. This is about to change, according to a report by ODFW that was put out on February 27, 2015.

Starting on the first of March, Oregon Fish and Game reports that a target number of 500 adult does will be captured and fitted with radio collars. The animals will be those in the area around John Day. The capture and tagging operation will be carried out by a company named Leading Edge Aviation, out of Clarkston, Washington. Helicopters will be used for the ODFW collaring activities, to have the least negative impact on the deer.

The transmitter collars have GPS capability, allowing the deer to be tracked via signals sent to the satellite system. Not only will this mean that biologists will know how the deer are moving and when they are moving, they are even set to send a special signal if the animal stops moving for a long period of time. This will let the ODFW know when a doe has probably died. This is also valuable information for proper management of the herd.

Knowing the actual movements of the deer can help the Fish and Wildlife department in their determination of how many deer tags can be issued in a given hunting unit. The hunting units in Oregon have been in place for roughly 60 years and it is probable that these don’t truly reflect the population of deer that is contained within them. This means that the capturing and collaring activities may lead to alterations in the boundaries of the hunting units. Doing this will be an advancement in efficient deer population management, which ultimately helps the mule deer, deer hunters and the general public.

For people who wonder about where the money is coming from, as stated in the report,

“Funding support for the [ODFW] collaring project comes from the sale of hunting licenses, and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, a federal grants program funded by excise taxes on the sale of hunting equipment.”

The mentioned Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program is a program that functions through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

It is hoped that the capturing and collaring of mule deer in this area of Oregon can lead to better and more accurate management of the deer herds in the state, while also providing a greater understanding about the mule deer in the region. The ODFW program may only be concentrated in one part of Oregon, however if it is as successful as it has the potential to be, it is easy to imagine that similar programs may be instituted in other parts of the state.

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