Moffat County, Rio Blanco students assist CPW deer research
The health of mule deer herds in Northwestern Colorado has been the subject of a special Colorado Parks and Wildlife research project since 2008.
Recently, students from Moffat and Rio Blanco counties lent a hand to capture and study mule deer south of Meeker.
Moffat County High School senior Johnathon Macks shared his photos of the day, and CPW Mammals Research Leader Chuck Anderson took the time to explain more about what researchers, volunteers were doing and why.
Craig Press: What was done?
Chuck Anderson: We used helicopter net-gunning to capture 80 adult female mule deer to assist with a long-term research project addressing mule deer and energy development interactions. This project was initiated in 2008 and will end in December 2019.
Why is the research being done?
To address mule deer responses to energy development activity and develop “best management practices” to inform future development planning to benefit wintering mule deer populations.
What equipment was used?
GPS radio-collars collecting precise locations every five hours and stored on the collar were replaced with temporary VHF radio collars that can only be tracked from the ground or aircraft. Collars were replaced so that habitat use patterns could be evaluated for the last year of the study. Captured deer received transmitters to allow birth detections in the spring, where field crews will be directed to newborn fawns to attach expandable collars for monitoring their survival over summer. We used portable ultrasound equipment to measure late winter body fat/condition and determine pregnancy and fetal rates — the number of fawns per doe. Body measurements and weights were also documented.
CPW personnel assigned to the project, from Area 6 and our state capture vet and capture technician; high school students from Meeker and Craig, and Mule Deer Foundation members from Rifle.
How did it go?
The capture went well. Snow conditions and temperatures were good to excellent for helicopter capture efforts and no significant injuries or moralities were documented.
Editor’s note: Moffat County High School senior Johnathon Macks assisted CPW and contributed the photos for this story. Craig Press will have a longer story about the research in future editions.