Johnson County Winter Deer survey completed
Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife biologists and game wardens recently completed the 2014 mule deer classification surveys for the Buffalo and Kaycee areas. Classification surveys take place after the hunting seasons when winter weather and breeding season make deer more visible and accessible. Survey results provide information on fawn production and survival and the proportion of bucks in the herds.
When deer are classified, the animals are identified as adult bucks, yearling bucks, does or fawns. The results are then analyzed as herd ratios, or, the number of fawns counted for every 100 does counted and the number of bucks counted for every 100 does counted. Herd ratios allow managers to monitor trends in the proportion of fawns and bucks in a herd from year-to-year. Classification surveys are not a total count of the entire herd, but rather a sample of the population. Most areas were surveyed from the ground while more inaccessible areas were surveyed using a helicopter.
During November and December, 3,973 mule deer were classified in Hunt Areas 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 163 and 169. Overall, the fawn ratio averaged 88 fawns per 100 does compared to 57 fawns per 100 does in 2013. The average for the previous five years was 66:100. Fawn ratios were the highest recorded in at least the last 25 years. The high ratios were due, in part, to improved habitat conditions resulting from above normal precipitation and the timing of that precipitation. Precipitation during the fall of 2013 allowed does to recover from drought conditions prior to entering the breeding season and the following winter. The relatively open 2013-2014 winter, followed by timely rainfall in 2014, extended the forage green-up period leading to excellent fawn survival.
The buck ratio in 2014 averaged 40 bucks per 100 does, compared to 36 bucks per 100 does in 2013. The buck ratio averaged 37 bucks per 100 does over the previous five years. Buck ratios continue to reflect good numbers of buck deer with plenty of mature bucks in most hunt areas.
The yearling buck ratio is influenced by the previous year’s fawn production and overwinter survival into the yearling age class. It provides managers some insight into how well last year’s fawns survived their first winter. Yearling bucks averaged 13 bucks per 100 does; a reflection of improved overwinter fawn survival. This yearling buck age class was produced from a year where the fawn ratio was only 57 fawns per 100 does.
White-tailed deer were also surveyed with over 1,900 classified in seven hunt areas. Fawn ratios averaged 80 fawns per 100 does whereas buck ratios averaged 43 bucks per 100 does.
Herd ratios are influenced by several factors including fawn production and recruitment, natural mortality and harvest. Information from the surveys is used by managers to update herd population estimates and set hunting seasons.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department will host a public open house to review the 2015 proposed hunting seasons on Tuesday, March 24 from 4:00 to 7:00 P.M. at the Johnson County Library in Buffalo.