Researchers Discover Wyoming Mule Deer Migration

Photo: Joe Riis
Photo: Joe Riis

Scientists have recently discovered an epic Wyoming mule deer migration that was previously unknown. Each year, a herd of mule deer leaves the Red Desert and travels more than 150 miles to the Hoback Basin south of Jackson. This impressive migration is now the longest known mammal migration in the lower 48.

Amazingly, this migration which crosses public and private lands was totally unknown to biologists. Hall Sawyer, a researcher with Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. began studying the Red Desert herd in 2011, completely unaware of what he would find. Starting out, Sawyer and his team assumed that they were studying a resident, non-migrating mule deer herd. When the mule deer began disappearing in the spring, the scientists were baffled.

Using radio collars and airplanes to find the deer, they were shocked to finally find the herd traveling north, nearly 100 miles from where they had started. Sawyer and his team have now confirmed that this herd of mule deer makes this 150-mile migration twice a year, following the receding snowline in the spring to the Hoback Basin and then back south to the Red Desert with the arrival of winter.

Sawyer is also credited with discovering the famous Wyoming pronghorn migration from the upper Green River Basin to Grand Teton National Park. Until now, that was the longest known mammal migration in the lower 48. Sawyer worked with National Geographic photographer, Joe Riis to produce this video that highlights the migration:

For more information on this newly discovered migration, please visit

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