SALT LAKE CITY — Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources rounded up mule deer on Antelope Island with a helicopter Monday and fitted them with GPS tracking collars to better understand where the animals roam and the overall health of the herd.
“We want to see how they’re moving and using the island because of different changes in the vegetation,” said Eric Anderson, DWR district wildlife biologist.
Right now, Anderson said the mule deer population on Antelope Island is around 400 to 500, split up into numerous herds that fluctuate and change throughout the year.
Most of the year, the deer tend to separate themselves into herds by sex. Right now, however, the males are back with the herds because it is the peak of the breeding season.
The better DWR biologists understand the deer on the island, the better they can make sure the herd is healthy for generations to come.
They want to collect data on where the deer go and see how that corresponds with where the vegetation grows. They also know that the deer have moved around because of fires in recent years.
“They spread out pretty well throughout the island,” Anderson said. “They don’t stay in big herds like you’d see in the wintertime. They do congregate in the wintertime.”
Understanding those movements helps biologists understand how the deer are feeding.
“They can compete with each other for resources on the island — too many can not be a good thing,” Anderson said.
.@UtahDWR is out here today using helicopters to capture mule deer and pronghorn. The animals are captured with nets and then the deer are flown back to an area where they undergo health checks and have GPS tracking collars put on them pic.twitter.com/82P7UIRIJO— Faith Heaton Jolley (@FaithHJolley) November 18, 2019
While biologists had a deer on the table, they checked the animal’s health, weighed it, pulled blood and took nasal swabs to test for diseases.
“This population is probably one of our healthiest when it comes to putting on winter reserves,” Anderson said, referring to the Antelope Island mule deer population.
The males today weighed in over 200 lbs. and the females weighed in the range of 150 lbs. Their survival this winter depends largely on how much weight the mule deer can put on during the summer, and this herd seemed to be doing well.
“These typically are some of the fattest deer we see in the state,” Anderson said.
The GPS collars should provide even more knowledge about the herd during the next two years.
“It seems we’re continuously learning new information about the species, and how we can help them survive on the landscape,” he said.