ID: Upper Snake winters can take a toll on mule deer
Most hunters know that the Upper Snake Region can be a tough
place to make a living in the winter, especially for wildlife and
mule deer in particular.
Those who have lived here long enough, may remember the hard
winters of 1984, 1989, 1993, 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2008 and now we
have 2011. In severe winters like these, most of the past year’s
fawns are lost, and if things are bad enough, adult does and bucks
can be lost also.
The mule deer found in the Upper Snake are some of the most
productive deer herds found anywhere in the state. On average,
December fawn ratios are around 70-80 fawns per 100 does, and buck
ratios are 20 to 30 bucks per 100 does. Given the high productivity
of these herds, these populations can and do rebound quickly.
Since 1998, Idaho Fish and Game biologists have been putting
radio collars on mule deer does and fawns throughout the Upper
Snake Region, as well as other important winter ranges across the
state. They collect information about the animals for a variety of
reasons, but one of the major ones is to document over-winter
mortality. This information helps Fish and Game manage populations
and make adjustments in hunter opportunity if needed.
Given the severity of this past winter, Fish and Game is
proposing some adjustments in antlerless and either-sex controlled
hunt tag levels for this coming fall in those areas hit hardest;
Sand Creek and Teton Canyon. The commission will make the final
decision at their meeting set for May 18 – 20. Hunters who plan on
applying for controlled hunts in these areas may want to hold off
until after the commission meeting so they will know what permit
levels will be offered. The controlled hunt application process is
open until June 5.
The Upper Snake Region plans to maintain youth either-sex hunting
opportunity during the general season, which will keep antlerless
harvest at less than 1 percent of the population as per the 2008
Mule Deer Management Plan.
Fish and Game will continue to monitor mule deer populations by
conducting December composition counts, radio-collaring fawns and
adult does, and monitoring harvest. If survival rates return to
normal levels during the winter of 2011-2012, biologists plan to
return this opportunity to sportsmen in the fall of 2012.
The Upper Snake Region is not alone. The Southwest Region is
also considering adjustments in permits levels for Units; 22, 31,
32 and 32A.