Mule Deer Migration Corridors
EcoFlight flew Wyoming Wildlife Federation with officials from Wyoming Fish and Game Commission to get a deeper understanding of habitat and wildlife corridors as they update management plans.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is host to some of the largest and most diverse ungulate populations in North America. In fact, the southern end of the forest is home to a premier population of mule deer called the Wyoming Range herd. This mule deer herd migrates more than 130 miles from the Hoback Rim above Bondurant to south of Kemmerer in what is called the Wyoming Range mule deer migration corridor.
Contiguous landscapes and healthy habitat are critical for populations to survive. Migration allows big game to feed on green forbs and grasses that give them strength to move into the winter months. 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 fragmented by roads, well pads, fences and other development. Recent science has found that well pads can have a significant impact on deer numbers, and can disturb migration and foraging behaviors, which has the potential to impact migration routes and herd health.
Existing federal RMPs vaguely recognize these migration corridors and have little to no management guidelines set in place to conserve the associated habitats. Hunting and angling organizations representing thousands of sportsmen and sportswomen in Wyoming are asking that development on public land not occur within the migration corridors until RMPs are finalized or amended to reflect issues with critical winter range and migration corridors.