Nevada’s mule deer population can migrate up to 100 miles. Many use state-built viaducts at places they attempt to cross each year. (Nevada DOT)
By Suzanne Potter – Producer, Contact
June 10, 2021
CARSON CITY, Nevada – Nevada’s mule deer population has fallen 15% in the past decade – and now a new study is urging federal authorities to better protect migration corridors.
Researchers from Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership say new global positioning system technology has led to detailed migration maps.
But Nevada Department of Wildlife director Tony Wasley said the average federal resource management plan in the state was 21 years old.
“And these plans talk about everything from the administration and features of the wilderness to wild horses and burros,” Wasley said, “invasive species, off-road travel, mining, whether it’s minerals or fluids “.
About 85% of Nevada’s land is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service.
Wasley said in the past, land managers believed migrating mule deer would simply bypass an obstacle such as a pit lake or waste rock dump – but new data shows this is not the case.
“These animals have incredible loyalty to these particular routes,” Wasley said. “And these routes are critical to their ability to move from a productive summer area to a low elevation wintering area where they can survive harsh winter conditions.”
Madeleine West – director of the Center for Public Lands at Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership – said we need to use the latest scientific advances to ensure that migration routes are not threatened by habitat fragmentation due to things like the development and roads; and habitat loss from events such as forest fires and the spread of invasive plants.
“The migration maps show where the animals use the landscape at high use,” West said, “where they use it at less use, where they stop to rest and where they are sort of stranded and blocked. “
In recent years, Nevada has constructed several highway overpasses and underpasses to reduce collisions and protect mule deer during their migration.
Support for this report was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.