The Saratoga Sun -

Eye of the Tiger: Hunting down deer herd numbers


Wyoming Game and Fish is affecting my life personally. When I was between the ages of 5 and 6 my dad and I would take drives along a county road and admire hundreds of deer that we would see any given evening. To this day I often take the very same drive at the very same time of day and will not see a single deer. I am another person that immediately points my finger at the Game and Fish. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department should be fixing the problem that has resulted in a low deer population.

According to a phone survey conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish in 2011, only 9 percent of the people who took the survey felt that deer populations have improved in the state over the past five years. Immediately a red flag pops into my mind when I see that statistic. Doesn’t this obviously show that something is drastically wrong? If only 9 percent of the public is happy then over 90 percent of them are not. It’s not just the public that feels like the deer population is changing for the worse; the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Mule Deer Working Group claims that Wyoming’s mule deer population is on a downhill slide. So after the public, including myself, points our fingers at the battered Game and Fish, they in turn immediately point their crooked fingers at the drought. So I dug a little deeper into how much truth was behind all the finger-pointing.

The National Wildlife Foundation shows that there has been a decline of Wyoming mule deer population over the past 30 years. This is expected since Wyoming has under gone much change throughout the past three decades. An increase in human population, energy development, and new structures are affecting migratory routes and winter range.

According to a Wyoming Game and Fish study, the number of licenses sold in 2003 was 6,000 more than what was sold in 2012. This may seem like significantly less but when more than 79,000 licenses were sold in 2012, 6,000 doesn’t seem so significant. In fact 6,000 less mule deer licenses is only 7 percent fewer licenses than were sold in 2003. According to the Mule Deer Working Group, the mule deer population in Wyoming has decreased by 31 percent. Why has the number of licenses only gone down 7 percent? This to me seems like poor management.

The Wyoming Game and Fish are spending money on managing mule deer habitat. They are getting 80 percent of their budget from licenses they sell. So this makes sense, sell more licenses so that there is more money to spend on mule deer habitat. If there are no more deer then why does there need to be a habitat for them? If the only way to pay for the deer is to kill too many of them, then maybe we need to be looking at more options. Maybe just kill less deer?

Biologists say that Wyoming is golden when it comes to deer population. Isn’t that giving up? If the world around is changing for the worse when it comes to the mortality of deer, then why are we virtually giving the same number of deer tags that we were when the habitat was sufficient? The outlook for deer in the long term does not look positive. I find it nearly heart-breaking that I can’t see myself down the road taking my own kids to admire deer just as my dad did with me.


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