Discuss Deer Hunt Area 10 and Review Herd Objectives

WRIGHT - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is encouraging all interested individuals to attend and provide comments and suggestions to proposed changes in the population objective and management strategy for the Cheyenne River Mule Deer Herd (Deer Hunt Areas 7-14 and 21). The proposals include changing the post-season population objective to 27,000 from 38,000 and potentially changing Deer Hunt Area 10 from general license to limited quota license hunting, while the remainder of the herd unit would be hunted with general licenses under what is termed a private land management strategy.

Public meetings will be held at the following locations to discuss these proposals.

   -- Douglas: Wednesday, May 21, in the Converse County Courthouse at 6 p.m.
   -- Lusk: Tuesday, May 20, in the Niobrara County Courthouse, Commission              Room at 5 p.m.
  -- Newcastle: Tuesday, May 20, in the USDA Forest Service Building at 7 p.m.
  --  Wright: Wednesday, May 28, in the Wright Town Hall, Chamber Room at 6 p.m. 

Herd units are a grouping of hunt areas the Game and Fish Department uses to manage big game populations. The post-season population objectives of these herds are important because they establish a goal towards which the Department manages game numbers with hunting.

The population objectives are set using biological data and public input. They are not population estimates, rather they are population goals. “Setting herd objectives is one of the most important things in which the public can be involved, since they shape the future management of a herd,” said Joe Sandrini, Newcastle wildlife biologist. 

“We are proposing to change the post-season population objective for the Cheyenne River Mule Deer Herd to 27,000 from 38,000,” Sandrini continued. 

There are many reasons for the Game and Fish’s proposal:

  --Since 1995, the average, post-season population estimate for this herd has been about 28,000 mule deer. The highest estimate was near 40,000 (in 2000), and the lowest was 17,400 (in 2012). However, this population has averaged only 25,000 since 2001.

 --Given fluctuations in weather conditions, declines in fawn production, and ongoing habitat loss to development and aging of shrub stands, it is likely the habitat cannot support more than 27,000 mule deer for any significant length of time.

 --Habitat monitoring in key mule deer wintering areas revealed over-browsing when the population was estimated to be higher than about 28,000 to 30,000 individuals.

--Many landowners and hunters have expressed real dissatisfaction with mule deer numbers and harvest opportunity since the 2010 hunting season - a year when the post season population estimate dropped from about 27,000 to 20,000.

 --27,000 seems to be an appropriate objective given trends in this population, habitat conditions, and low fawn survival. This represents a 50% increase in the number of mule deer present at the end of last year’s hunting season. To attain this goal, we will need to see improved fawn production and survival even with very conservative hunting seasons.

 --The private land management strategy is appropriate for this herd because the vast majority of occupied habitat is privately owned. This strategy will allow the Department to issue Nonresident Region B licenses in line with demand and the level of hunter access on to private land.

Game and Fish is also considering changing Deer Hunt Area 10 (Rochelle Hills) to limited quota license hunting, rather than continuing with general license hunting. This change would require hunters to apply for and receive a deer license specific to Hunt Area 10 in order to hunt there. Hunting pressure and crowding has increased on public lands in this part of Wyoming, an area where mule deer densities are extremely low. Deer Hunt Area 10 contains the largest block of public land deer hunting in northeast Wyoming outside the Black Hills. A limited quota season in Area 10 would limit hunter numbers, but reduced drawing odds for residents and nonresidents. There are pros and cons with both limited quota and general license seasons, and the Department is interested in what folks think about potentially changing to limited quota hunting in Deer Area 10.

 

Everyone interested in the proposed changes to the management of mule deer in the Cheyenne River Herd are encouraged to attend the public meetings. At these meetings, the Department will also present information on its recent review of the Cheyenne River Antelope Herd, which covers nearly the same area, and its plan to combine this herd unit with the Highlight Antelope Herd Unit.

 
Filed Under :
Topics : Environment
People : Joe Sandrini
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