Wyoming ungulate migration is ramping up, as mule deer, pronghorn, elk and other species make the move from winter ranges to summer ranges in search of food.
For years wildlife managers and researchers have documented seasonal migrations using GPS collars allowing them to map migration corridor use throughout the American west as detailed in a new report, Ungulate Migrations of the Western United States, Volume 2.
Based on that data, researchers note that mule deer have been slow to start migrating this year. They’re not sure why, but it’s something they plan to study more, Gregory Nickerson, a filmmaker and writer with the Wyoming Migration Initiative, said.
One hypothesis is that the milder winter with much less snowfall allowed animals to preserve more of their fat, making the need to reach greener pastures less urgent, according to Nickerson.
The famous Red Desert-to-Hoback migration corridor — the longest mule deer migration ever recorded — is traveled by close to 5,000 deer each year. Some 1,000 start at the southern terminus of the corridor close to the town of Superior, but Nickerson said field researchers have observed only 20% of that herd starting to move north as of Wednesday.