Part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, western Wyoming supports some of the largest and most diverse ungulate populations in North America. The longest ungulate migration ever recorded in the lower 48 was recently discovered by a group of researchers at the University of Wyoming. Migration routes of mule deer were found to extend 150 miles from the Red Desert via the Wind River Range to its northernmost point of Hoback Junction in the Wyoming Range. The future integrity of these herds depends on their ability to migrate seasonally from low elevation winter ranges to high elevation summer ranges.
With increasing pressures from energy and urban development, these migrations are becoming more difficult. Habitats are being fragmented by roads, well pads, fences and other development. These obstacles have been found to disturb migration and foraging behaviors, which has the potential to impact migration routes and herd health. The discovery of this migration route illustrates the importance of a landscape approach to connectivity and corridors for the health of wildlife populations in the West.