Elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, and bighorn sheep are iconic animals of the American West. These hooved animals, known as ungulates, commonly travel 30–60 miles between seasonal ranges. These migrations between winter and summer ranges are vital for survival and reproduction. As habitat fragmentation continues, the conservation of ungulate migration routes has received considerable attention in the West and across the globe. For example, it is estimated that many ungulate migration routes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have already been lost. The traditional migration routes of Wyoming ungulates are threatened by unprecedented levels of energy development and by increasing levels of rural ranchette development (including fences, structures, and roads). In the past, migration corridors have been mapped based primarily on the expert opinions of state game managers, but long-term conservation of Wyoming's ungulate migration routes requires a better understanding of migration ecology and more sophisticated management tools. Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI) researchers investigated the migration of a large mule deer herd across the Dad and Wild Horse winter ranges in southwest Wyoming, where 2,000 gas wells and 1,609 kilometers of pipelines and roads have been proposed for development.
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WLCI researchers employ new approaches to help managers conserve deer migrations