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ANTELOPE ISLAND — The Division of Wildlife Resources is working to move nearly 100 mule deer off of Antelope Island this week in an effort to balance out the population before the food supply runs out.
DWR has done this with other animals, but with mule deer it's a difficult process. The mule deer can be skittish because their body temperature rises quickly when they're stressed. Wildlife officers are using some careful techniques to help the deer pack up and move.
A helicopter can take up to four mule deer per load.
"They put in a bag, and they're able to haul it back to us for processing," DWR Big Game project manager Kent Hersey said.
Wildlife officers and biologists are standing by to pick them up when the helicopter lands.
"We'll weigh it (and) we'll be taking ultrasound measurements to check for pregnancy, to look at what kind of condition the animal is in,” Hersey said.
Hersey is heading up the large-scale move, and by monitoring big game he’s making sure populations don't get out of hand.
"We're starting to get concerns, there's just overpopulation going on here," he said. "We're seeing some habitat damage."
In all, about 100 does will be moved to parts of Southern Utah. When working with the deer – and giving them medical exams – the goal is to be quiet and careful. They're blindfolded and their legs are tied together.
"They’re wild animals, they're not used to being next to people," Hersey said.
They’re then collared, and Hersey said the new, careful techniques make Utah's first-ever large-scale mule deer move possible.
And after planning something like this for months, Hersey said getting up close with Utah's wildlife is what makes it all worthwhile.
"I mean versus sitting in the office doing paperwork – certainly getting out and being able to handle them is a great thing," he said.
The Division of Wildlife will be at Antelope Island through Thursday collecting the deer. The deer will then be driven to parts of Southern Utah that have a much smaller population.