The Southern Interior Mule Deer (SIM Deer) Project is the largest collaborative mule deer research project in B.C.’s history, covering an area roughly the size of a small country. The goal of the project is to learn how to restore mule deer populations by studying how landscape change and predator-prey communities are affecting current populations. The project is a collaboration between the Bonaparte Indian Band, Okanagan Nation Alliance, University of BC-Okanagan, University of Idaho, British Columbia Fish and Wildlife Branch, and the BC Wildlife Federation. The project has dozens of funders, including individuals, clubs, and organizations such as the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, and the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C.
The science team has just completed the capture and collaring of neonates (newborn fawns) of previously collared mule deer does. This is the project’s third year of neonate capture after our successful pilot season in 2019. Collaring of neonates is a more recent addition to the SIM Deer Project. Historically, the technology required for capturing and collaring neonates was prohibitively expensive, but we have implemented an innovative approach using collared doe locations to locate birth sites, allowing the project to capture and collar neonates more affordably.
The neonate collars are extremely light, expand as the fawn grows, and are designed to drop off when the deer reaches approximately one year of age. The process of collaring does not hurt the neonate or jeopardize the relationship between the neonate and the doe.
On June 1, the science team began searching for newborn fawns and by Jun 15 we had exceeded our goal by capturing and collaring 20 neonates in the West Okanagan study area, 20 neonates in the Boundary study area, and 23 neonates in the Cache Creek study area.
Data on the survival of neonates allows us to more accurately estimate survival rates to one year of age. The data also helps determine how maternal winter and summer range affects neonate survival across all three study areas.
With three years of data, our team of researchers will begin data analysis of collared deer migration, survival, and mortality by the fall of 2021 and should be complete by late 2022.
To donate, visit the BCWF website and select ‘Southern Interior Mule Deer Project’ under designation, and we will issue you a tax receipt.
The SIM Deer project would not happen without our collaborators, funders and volunteers. Due to COVID-19 safety regulations, the SIM Deer neonate collaring program has not been able to include volunteers, and we thank everyone who has generously offered their time.
SIM Deer Team