Mule Deer Project

A population in decline

Understanding the natural balance

The BCWF has launched world class mule deer research in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, The University of BC Okanagan, The University of Idaho and the British Columbia Fish and Wildlife Branch.

The goal of our study
To learn how to restore mule deer populations in BC by studying how landscape change and the predator prey community are affecting our current populations.

The BCWF has already confirmed $115,000 of this project’s funding to come from government sources, but as always we will be heavily relying on volunteer support and non government funding to make this project a reality.

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 BC Wildlife Federation in collaboration with Sophie Gilbert 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.

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:

Collaring

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.

Cameras

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.

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

Partners of the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project include: