County 10™

G&F Reports Local Fawn/Doe Ratios Over Threshold in 2016

Feature photo: h/t Don Rardin

(Fremont County, Wyo.) - The Game and Fish Department has released mule deer classification information across Fremont County.

Dubois and Riverton areas

Despite relatively good spring moisture and decent forage production, deer recruitment east of Riverton was below average. Both Hunt Areas 36 and 90 saw fawn recruitment decreases (Table 1) compared to the previous two years. On a positive note, more deer were observed in area 90 during the classification survey than any time in the previous ten years. The quality of bucks observed during the survey also appeared to be improving following a significant decline in 2011. In Dubois, personnel also observed more deer than seen in close to ten years (Table 1). Fawn recruitment in the Dubois herd was similar to levels observed over the past several years and indications are the population is growing slowly.

Lander area

Wildlife biologists and game wardens recently conducted helicopter surveys for mule deer surveyed in the Lander and surrounding areas. The survey for the South Wind River mule deer herd unit netted the highest sample ever collected at 4,926 mule deer with the main increase coming from hunt areas 94 and 160. In addition, more bucks than ever were found during this year’s annual surveys, with 309 yearling bucks and 478 adult bucks. Following two excellent years of fawn recruitment, the buck/doe ratio remained quite good at 34 bucks per 100 does post-hunting season (Figure 2).

Harvest seemed lower than expected this year, due to warm and very windy conditions on opening weekend, along with very little snow cover in mid-October. With an increase in this year’s post-season buck/doe ratio along with good fawn recruitment this year, mule deer hunting should be very good next year.

In the Sweetwater mule deer herd unit, ground surveys are still being completed in hunt area 97 in portions that were not flyable. But, even with an incomplete survey, the 2nd highest sample ever was collected with nearly 1,600 mule deer observed. Figure 5 shows how fawn/doe ratios have fluctuated greatly over the last 22 years, with a low of 50 fawns per 100 does in 2002 and a high of 95 fawns/100 does in 2014. Recently, fawn/doe ratios have been above average, with 2014 and 2015 having very good fawn survival, with 2016 seeing a decrease, but remaining above 66 fawns/100 does. 

Overall, with both herd units having fawn/doe ratios over the threshold this year, and it being a good forage year and mild winter as of mid-December, this population should be expected to grow for at least another year. All mule deer observed appeared to be quite fat and healthy!