Wyoming Hunting News: Mule Deer Habitat Improvements

Wyoming Game and FishAccording to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, several improvement projects have been approved that will affect thousands of acres of mule deer, antelope and elk habitat in Wyoming. The projects are funded through partnerships with the Mule Deer Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other conservation organizations.

Habitat improvement projects like these are always great news for hunters in Wyoming. Not only do these projects bode well for the long term health of big game herds in the state, they show the power of sportsman’s cooperation through organizations like the Mule Deer Foundation and the results of wildlife spending through Wyoming hunting license sales.

Here are the latest details on these projects from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department:

LARAMIE – During their Nov. 14 meeting in Laramie, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved $112,864 from the Platte Valley Habitat Partnership (PVHP) Fund for five projects designed to benefit mule deer in the Platte Valley.

Matching funds for each of the projects were applied for in early fall and the Game and Fish Department is awaiting approval from identified sources. On-the-ground work is scheduled to begin on all projects by March 2014 and continue for the next two to three years.

The projects will treat nearly 10,000 acres of important mule deer habitats; convert 23 miles of fence to wildlife-friendly standards; and develop 10 separate water sources for use by mule deer, other wildlife species, and domestic livestock. In total, funds approved by the commission will be matched in a 7:1 ratio by other funding sources, resulting in total project funding of $915,579 for mule deer habitat improvements. To help ensure the success of the PVHP and its habitat work, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission provided $500,000 in 2013 to start the funding of landscape-scale habitat improvement projects. At the same time, the commission requested the money be used to leverage other sources of funding at a minimum of a 5 to 1 ratio.

The TA Ranch Mountain Shrub, Aspen and Meadow Habitat Enhancement project will improve habitat for mule deer on more than 1,200 acres northeast of Saratoga. The project involves various forms of vegetative treatments including aspen ripping, Spike herbicide application, aeration and inter-seeding of forbs and grasses, meadow herbicide application, tillage, and legume seeding. The project will take three years to complete. Total cost is $176,390. The commission approved $18,000 from PVHP funds, with a 8.8 to 1 match ratio. Partners applied to for cash or in-kind funds or services include: the TA Ranch, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT), Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI), and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGF).

The ZN Ranch Riparian and Upland Habitat Enhancement I project involves treatment on 6,100 acres, including critical winter range and transitional range for mule deer. The project will enhance riparian habitat conditions on Rattlesnake Creek through mechanical method or prescribed fire to provide vegetative diversity and create mixed age classes of sagebrush. It also involves willow plantings along the creek to improve riparian hydrologic conditions and function. Brush mowing will also be used to contain and control prescribed fires. The burns will be completed over the next three years. Partners applied to for cash or in-kind funds or services include: ZN Ranch, WWNRT, MDF, RMEF, WLCI and WGF. The total price tag for the project is $271,525, with $41,364 approved from PVHP funds, and a 5.6 to 1 match ratio.

The French Creek Fence Conversion Project will replace more than ¾ of a mile of five-wire barbed fence with four-wire, wildlife friendly fence in a crucial big game migration route. The project will reduce animal entanglement and allow for easier movement of animals through their migration route. Partners applied to for cash or in-kind funds or services include: the U.S. Forest Service, the A Cross Ranch, and volunteers. The total project will cost $18,864, with $3,000 approved from the PVHP fund and a 5.3 to 1 match.

More fence work, along with water conversions, will take place through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Saratoga Encampment Rawlins Conservation District (SERCD) Fence Conversions and Water Developments Project. The project includes spring developments, off-site water developments, and riparian fence enclosures to protect water sources, and conversion of 21 miles of fence to wildlife friendly fence. The project will protect valuable water sources and quality riparian vegetation for use by mule deer on summer ranges. It will also allow for easier migration of big game animals to and from important winter ranges. Partners applied to for cash or in-kind funds or services include: the SERCD, the BLM, WGF, WWNRT, RMEF, MDF, the South Central Sage-Grouse Working Group, WLCI, and seven area ranches. The total project will cost $341,000, with $40,000 approved from the PVHP fund and a 7.5 to 1 match ratio.

The Big Creek Ranch Mountain Shrub and Aspen Treatments Project will use herbicide, mechanical, and prescribed fire treatments on shrub and aspen communities to address high shrub densities and to encourage aspen growth. The project will improve forage quality and fawning success through improved nutrition and by providing hiding, thermal and fawning cover for mule deer. Partners applied to for cash or in-kind funds or services include: RMEF, MDF, WLCI, WWNRT, and the Big Creek Ranch. With a total cost of $107,800, PVHP funds will provide $10,500 with a match ratio of 9.3 to 1.

The PVHP is a collaborative effort among federal agencies, WGF personnel, non-governmental organizations, landowners and members of the public. PVHP will hold its next meeting at 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11 at the Platte Valley Community Center in Saratoga.