Migration is hard work for Wyoming’s mule deer, especially for the thousands that move 150 miles each way between their winter range in the Red Desert and their summer range in the slopes of the Hoback. Muleys have to contend with weather, disease, predators, fencelines, and human traffic across an increasingly fragmented landscape. One thing they don’t need more of? Challenges that pose a life-or-death threat by closing off or destroying critical habitat — especially when mule deer populations statewide have declined by more than 30 percent in recent decades.
That’s why the staff of the Wyoming Outdoor Council has been on the move this spring and summer, too, working to support these selective critters by advocating good wildlife policy that defends their future.
SURFING THE GREEN WAVE INTO SUMMER
During late spring and early summer, we joined friends in Lander, Rock Springs, Laramie, and Casper to “Surf the Green Wave” into summer. We were thrilled to see so many of you at these events! Together, we explored the latest science, chatted policy and land management challenges faced by our deer, and talked about how you can take action to support Wyoming’s muley herds (which you did!). We also replicated a mule deer migration by “pub crawling” to various “stopovers” — those places along migration routes harboring the highest quality green “groceries” — and celebrated with our version of high-quality summer forage: a special beer brewed by our friends at Square State Brewing in Rock Springs!
Thanks to the many, many volunteers, hosts, donors, and members who made these events possible, including Pedal House in Laramie and Backwards Distilling in Casper.
ADVOCACY UPDATE: GOV. GORDON’S MIGRATION ADVISORY GROUP
Your commitment to learn about and take action for mule deer has been essential as we’ve engaged with Gov. Gordon’s Wildlife Migration Advisory Group, which began meeting at the end of June. This eight-person citizen group, comprised of Wyomingites from a range of backgrounds, has been hard at work this summer. The group is considering scientific, conservation, policy, and economic data as it crafts a recommendation for the governor about how Wyoming should manage migration corridors.
The Outdoor Council had the opportunity to present to the group on July 8 on behalf of the conservation community, and we worked diligently to represent the hopes and concerns you’ve shared with us about the state’s mule deer. I was honored to be able to talk about our conservation priorities for migration corridors and our recommendations for protecting migrating big game — especially mule deer. The committee’s conversations afterward were thoughtful, and I came away encouraged about the prospect of a strong, Wyoming-based solution for our migratory big game.
TAKING ACTION TO SUPPORT OUR MULE DEER
The committee’s final meeting will be held in Pinedale on August 12 and 13. If you are able to attend, we would love to see you there. Watch your inbox for information about the meeting and how to participate.
Also, the state offered several oil and gas leases in migration corridors this month — including some in critical stopover habitat. We’d like to ask that these leases be canceled until stronger rules — already in development through the Governor’s task force — are in place to make sure that mule deer corridors aren’t harmed. Join us in asking the State Board of Land Commissioners (a group which includes Gov. Gordon) not to approve the sale of seven leases in corridor and stopover habitat.
FINALLY: Do you want to get your hands dirty and help support the world’s longest mule deer migration?
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Rock Springs Bureau of Land Management are organizing a habitat improvement project on Saturday, August 10. Volunteers are needed to help replace fence. It’s a big job with some heavy lifting involved, and will help migrating mule deer access a key stopover in the Red Desert to Hoback corridor. If you’re interested in joining WOC staff to volunteer, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll provide a WOC t-shirt or hat to anyone who volunteers, and will help arrange carpools to Farson! More details about the volunteer day can be found at this link.
Thank you for being a passionate advocate for Wyoming’s mule deer and other big game! Your voice is making a difference as we strive to negotiate a permanent conservation solution for our iconic migratory herds.