Mule deer trapping conducted by Fish and Game biologists to help assess winter survival

Fish and game biologists in the Magic Valley area are spending time this winter bonding mule deer and fawn to assess their survival over the coming winter months. Biologists need the data provided by GPS collars to make informed recommendations to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which sets upcoming hunting seasons.

After capture, deer are blindfolded to calm them while data is collected

Using statistical models, biologists will analyze data collected by GPS collars to estimate how many animals survived the winter.

A GPS collar and ear tags are placed on all deer captured during the capture project

Mule deer trapping operations involve a helicopter driving deer into a trap net where data is collected to monitor seasonal movements, body condition, and ultimately long-term survival. Once in the nets, deer can be quickly processed by placing a collar around their neck, ear tags placed in both ears, measuring leg length to determine growth rates and weight.

A helicopter brings mule deer into the catch nets

Females may have blood drawn to determine pregnancy and, time permitting, an ultrasound may be performed on the animal’s hindquarters to determine fat thickness which correlates with its condition. general health.

All mule deer are weighed before being released to measure their state of health

Trapping is usually done in the winter when big game is herded into low-lying wintering grounds.

A mule deer fawn before capturing it in large nets

Data from GPS collars helps biologists make recommendations in years when winter survival is low and hunting seasons may need to be adjusted to reduce the impact on populations in the fall. Similarly, if overwinter survival is high, these same biologists may recommend to the Fish and Game Commission to provide more hunting opportunities due to the greater number of animals in the landscape.

A mule deer doe rushes into a catch net with Department personnel hiding in sagebrush

The large mesh of the net coupled with the freely hanging net ensures a safe capture of the deer

The catching team tries to move a mule deer out of the net area before it is released

Mule deer released after receiving new GPS collar and earrings

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