The Southern Interior Mule Deer Project is World-Class Research

How do changes on the land affect the health of mule deer?

Understanding the natural balance

Since 2019, dozens of volunteers have been tending wildlife cameras across 30,000 square kilometres of the southern Interior to better understand changes in the mule deer population, their health, their movements and their predators. 

The BCWF is pursuing this world-class mule deer research in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Bonaparte First Nation, The University of B.C. Okanagan, The University of Idaho and the British Columbia Fish and Wildlife Branch. 

The Southern Interior Mule Deer Project operates 150 cameras in 250 locations, which have historically been moved with the seasonal migration of the deer. We hope to have cameras permanently installed at every research location later this year. 

“Our goal is to discover what is causing the continual decline of the mule deer population, but we are covering a vast area, from 100 Mile House in the north all the way to the U.S. border,” said camera site coordinator Grant Hiebert. 

More than 2.5 million images have been collected to date. Data analysis will be supervised by University of Idaho PhD candidate Sam Foster. 

“Our team will determine how factors like wildfires, logging, roads, and people influence the distribution and activity patterns of mule deer, as well as the strength of interactions between mule deer and the many other species that eat or compete with them,” said Foster. 

In addition to the deer, the cameras frequently capture images of predators such as wolves, bears and cougars, especially in areas with industrial access roads and skidding tracks leftover from logging. 

“At some sites, one camera is placed in the bush, while another is placed looking over a nearby road or quad trail,” said Hiebert. “The purpose of this is to find out whether predators are successfully using human-made pathways to access their prey.” 


The BCWF is looking for people who are passionate about wildlife and the outdoors to commit to a one-day backcountry adventure once a year to service the cameras. 

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Grant at 

The next phase of the SIMdeer Project will involve examining millions of images to identify the animals captured on camera, along with the time and location, to begin data analysis. This phase will also require volunteer citizen scientists. 

To participate in image analysis please contact Sam at 

Why is there a decline in mule deer populations?
The goal of the project is to answer the key question of how landscape change affects mule deer and the predator‐prey community. Jesse Zeman, Director of Fish and Wildlife Restoration for the B.C. Wildlife Federation in collaboration with Matt Falcy of the University of Idaho and Adam Ford of The University of British Columbia, Okanagan, created the following presentation to provide you with the history and background behind the population decline of the Mule deer in the Southern Interior of British Columbia.

Southern Interior Mule Deer Project Webinars

Zoom Webinar from January 26, 2021

Zoom Webinar from November 10, 2020

Where is this study taking place?
The proposed areas include the Kettle (8‐14, 8‐15), Peachland/Garnet Valley (8‐08, 8‐11), and the Elephant Hill Fire (3‐29, 3‐30).

How will you collect the data needed to make the change?
There are three parts to this study including:


We will collar 20‐30 mule deer does in each study area (half in burned, half in unburned areas) and 20 fawns in each area next year. This will give us an idea of migration routes, habitat selection, effect of roads, effectiveness of ungulate winter range protection orders, survival, causes of mortality and effectiveness of highway wildlife crossing structure usage in the Peachland study area.


Mule deer survival is currently being monitored in the East Kootenay, and this data will be used in the analysis. Trail cameras installed in these areas will tell us about other animals (predators, prey and people) that are interacting (competing) with mule deer. The cameras will also measure recruitment (fawn survival) and sex ratios (buck:doe).

Vegetation Sampling

After we know where our collared animals are moving and we set up a series of fences, we will be able to see what mule deer are eating, what their competitors are eating, which forage species they prefer, and which plants might be suppressed.

News about the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project

Our progress

  • We recently purchased the GPS collars and plan on collaring mule deer does in late winter. It costs approximately $2,000 to capture, collar and monitor (data fees) a deer for one year.

  • Both UBC‐O and U of Idaho are contributing significant in‐kind support and donating trail cameras for the project (~$80,000), and a PhD student (~$140,000) to get it off‐the‐ground. We would like to add a second PhD student as the project progresses.

  • We would also like to purchase an ultrasound to check captured mule deer body condition, pregnancy rates and fecundity (number of fetuses). An ultrasound costs between $25,000‐30,000 (CDN) depending on the model.

  • To get the base project running (collaring does only; no ultrasound; minimal capture costs) we require a minimum of $60,000 in addition to the government contribution.


Partners of the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project include: