The 2016-17 winter is shaping up to be one of the harshest in many years. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s wildlife managers are monitoring winter’s impact on big game and so far they are seeing an increase in numbers of big game dying compared to the past several winters when conditions were more mild.
The winter conditions and mortalities are leading many to ask questions about possible management techniques to try and reduce impacts and mortalities. Game and Fish has the goal of creating a platform to hear from the public and to share information on this topic and so will hold an online meeting this Wednesday at noon.
“Game and Fish values the input of the public and looks to share what we know. We invite anyone interested to join an online conversation later this week,” said Chief of the Wildlife Division, Brian Nesvik.
Harsh winters are not uncommon in Wyoming or elsewhere in the West. Deep snow and extreme cold temperatures at this critical time of the year greatly impacts survival of deer, antelope, moose and elk, all classified as big game in Wyoming law.
“Like many across the state, we at Game and Fish are concerned when big game start dying mid-winter because there are several more months of potentially harsh weather to come. In a situation like this we review the science related to options to determine if there is a way to mitigate the big game deaths. One topic we anticipate discussing is a review of existing scientific research,” said Nesvik.
Emergency feeding of deer is one idea that has come up as a way to stave off winter losses, but it has not been documented as a an effective management practice in minimizing winter mortality for large populations of deer or antelope.
The meeting, which will be online to make it easier for the public to join, will take place Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 at 12 noon. To join, go to Game and Fish’s website at wgfd.wyo.gov/winter2017. Wildlife managers will be available to take questions and discuss existing research on options such as emergency feeding of deer and antelope or removing coyotes that can prey on deer and pronghorn when they are vulnerable during the winter.
“We are fortunate in Wyoming to have institutions like the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust that have invested significant dollars in mule deer and other wildlife habitat improvement projects,” said Nesvik. “While these investments cannot always offset the effects of a harsh winter, they can help big game go into winter in better condition and to recover more quickly following severe winters. We look forward to talking about all ongoing efforts to help conserve mule deer and other big game this week.”
After the meeting, anyone interested can review the video and send feedback to Game and Fish through the same webpage, which will display all comments and questions. Game and Fish is asking for comments until Feb. 17, 2017. The agency will respond with updates about any current or future actions the following week.