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Idaho’s mule deer fawns died at 2nd-highest rate in 19 years; elk fared better

Monitoring Idaho’s mule deer

Idaho Fish and Game biologists trap, collar and monitor Idaho's mule deer in order to manage them. Video courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game
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Idaho Fish and Game biologists trap, collar and monitor Idaho's mule deer in order to manage them. Video courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game

About 70 percent of radio-collared mule deer fawns in Idaho died during and in the immediate aftermath of the harsh 2016-17 winter, Idaho Fish and Game announced Monday.

That’s the second-worst rate of mortality among fawns in the past 19 years — yet still better than wildlife managers feared.

Only 10 percent of collared does died.

Elk, as expected, fared much better. Only 4 percent of collared elk cows died. The mortality rate among elk calves was 46 percent.

Those numbers led Fish and Game to decide earlier this year to issue more elk tags and fewer mule deer tags.

Survival numbers varied across the state. In the McCall/Weiser region, only 3 percent of collared fawns survived the winter.

The worst mule deer fawn rate on record with Fish and Game is 74 percent in 2010-11. The average, collected over the past 19 years, is 43 percent.

Fish and Game used 156 feeding sites to reach more than 13,000 deer, 12,000 elk and 200 pronghorn last winter to try to reduce mortality and damage to private property.

After the 2010-11 winter, the deer harvest dropped by 6 percent statewide in the ensuing hunting season.

Idaho Fish and Game is feeding 4,000 elk in the fire-ravaged Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area in eastern Idaho. Glenn Oakley produced this time-lapse video of the effort for Fish and Game.

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