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Trapping Helps Biologists Assess the State of Deer in Southern Idaho
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Sunday, January 23, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY TERRY THOMPSON

COURTESY IDAHO FISH AND GAME

Idaho Fish and Game biologists are trapping mule deer this winter. And that’s a good thing for the deer.

Fish and Game biologists with the Magic Valley Region are spending time this winter collaring mule deer does and fawns to assess survival over the coming winter months. Biologists need the data supplied by the GPS collars to make informed recommendations to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission who set upcoming hunting seasons.

Using statistical models, biologists will analyze the data collected from the GPS collars to estimate how many animals survived the winter. 

Mule deer trapping operations involve a helicopter to drive deer into a capture net where data is collected to monitor seasonal movements, body condition and ultimately long-term survival. Once in the nets the deer can be quickly processed by placing a collar around their necks, ear tags put into both ears, measure leg length to determine growth rates and weight.

Does may have blood drawn to determine pregnancy, and if time allows, an ultrasound might be conducted on the animal’s hind quarters to determine fat thickness which correlates to its overall health level.

Trapping is typically done in the winter when big game animals are congregated on lower elevation winter ranges.

GPS collar data helps biologists form recommendations in years when the winter survival is low and hunting seasons may need to be adjusted to reduce the impact on populations in the fall. Likewise, if winter survival is high, these same biologists may recommend to the Fish and Game Commission that they provide more hunting opportunity due to more animals on the landscape.

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