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(Lander, Wyo.) – In March 2016, 20 female mule deer were captured near Lander and outfitted with GPS tracking collars. In November 2017, reaching the end of their battery life, most of the collars were remotely dropped. For 20 months the collars collected data on where these mule deer have wandered. Each collar collected an average of over 5,300 locations and has provided some eye -opening information, according to the latest Lander WGFD newsletter.

Many of collared deer spent the last year and a half in almost the same area they were caught, and yet others moved quite a distance between winter and summer habitats. The longest distance any of the deer moved was about 35 miles from Beaver Creek/Beaver Rim area to the upper Sweetwater River near South Pass.

Retrieval of the dropped collars has been an adventure for staff. The first collar was found near Mexican Creek where it was noted the healthy vegetation in the area should provide some good feed this winter. On that trip a huge Douglas fir with an old cached deer carcass and an aspen with old bear claw scars were interesting finds to discover as well.

A Beaver Rim area collar was found where few deer summer and the shrubs in the area appeared to be in poor shape as if heavily browsed. Further investigations this spring can hopefully provide answers to the poor habitat conditions.

A Red Canyon collar dropped in an area where the main shrub is one we don’t think of mule deer typically eating. It was an evergreen called snowbush ceanothus. The snowbush looked to have been heavily browsed and one local hunter reported seeing deer eating this same species for a two week period.

Lastly, a collar dropped in Skull Gulch near Twin Creek, brought with it a long-tailed weasel already in his full white coat without any snow yet on the ground (Dec. 3)

Long-tailed weasel near Twin Creek. Photo h/t WGFD

Coupling all the collar data with some of the on the ground habitat observations will give our biologists and wardens some extra things to ponder this winter.

–Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Lander