Sara Hansen (509) 892-1001 ext. 310
Staci Lehman (509) 710-4511
SPOKANE- Starting in mid-January, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will conduct mule deer captures from helicopters in three study areas along the east slope of the Cascades in Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, and Klickitat counties, and in the Blue Mountain counties of Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield.
The department will use contracted professional crews to capture approximately 125 adult female mule deer across all areas. To make the captures as safe as possible for both deer and humans, humane capture methods and experienced crews are always used.
The deer will be fitted with GPS/satellite tracking collars. This will allow researchers to track them to evaluate movement and migration patterns and learn more about habitat use and survival of these mule deer populations. Each animal will be collared and released at the site where they are captured. The collars are programmed to drop off the deer after four years.
Captures and collaring in Okanogan County will inform ongoing research to improve WDFW’s current aerial mule deer population survey techniques, as well as investigate movement patterns of mule deer in the Methow watershed. The captures and deer studies in Chelan, Kittitas, and Klickitat counties are supported through a long-term partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior to bolster mule deer conservation efforts in Washington under Secretarial Order 3362—Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors. The captures in southeast Washington are adding to an ongoing study where WDFW has already collared 64 deer over the past three years, but require some additional sampling in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.
“In eastern Washington, many issues related to habitat condition and movement barriers can affect mule deer populations over time,” said Sara Hansen, WDFW Ungulate Specialist. “Working with our partners at the Department of the Interior, we will be able to use information from these collared deer to assess large-scale movement patterns, which will in turn help us prioritize development of conservation projects with local partners that address the most pressing habitat and population connectivity issues.”
In recent years, mule deer have lost winter habitat along the lower elevations of the east slope of the Cascades to human development and declining habitat quality caused by drought, wildfire, and invasive plant species.
Captures are scheduled to begin in Okanogan County the second full week of January and continue south and east as work is completed in each study area.
Mule deer are broadly distributed in Washington from the crest of the Cascade Mountains east to the Idaho border, providing hunting and viewing opportunities for thousands of people each year.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.