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PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: Service’s Tribal Wildlife Grant Assists Klamath Tribes in Mule Deer Mortality Study
California-Nevada Offices , January 23, 2014
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 Biologist David Speten prepares to release a mule deer fawn following the collection of body measurements and the fitting of a telemetry collar.
Biologist David Speten prepares to release a mule deer fawn following the collection of body measurements and the fitting of a telemetry collar. - Photo Credit: Dylan Woodrum
An adult mule deer doe is captured to collect biological information and attach telemetry devices.  Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarian Julia Burco is using ultrasound to measure the depth of rump fat which acts as an indicator of body condition while Carl White assists and John Muir collects equipment in preparation for moving to the next site.
An adult mule deer doe is captured to collect biological information and attach telemetry devices. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarian Julia Burco is using ultrasound to measure the depth of rump fat which acts as an indicator of body condition while Carl White assists and John Muir collects equipment in preparation for moving to the next site. - Photo Credit: David Speten
David Speten fits a telemetry collar making sure to use gloves and a pillow case to prevent the transmission of human odors onto the fawn.
David Speten fits a telemetry collar making sure to use gloves and a pillow case to prevent the transmission of human odors onto the fawn. - Photo Credit: Lisa Lochner

By Kagat McQuillen, Biological Science Aid
Michael Woodbridge, Public Affairs Officer

 

Mule deer have a deeply rooted place in the Klamath Tribes of southern Oregon’s culture, as a means of subsistence, spirituality, and cultural identity for tribal members. Since 1981, the Tribes have seen a 67% decline in mule deer populations on their former reservation boundary in southern Oregon. In response to declining numbers of deer, the Tribes applied for and were awarded funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Pacific Southwest Region, Tribal Wildlife Grant Program to fund a study on mule deer fawn survival and cause specific mortality.


The Klamath Tribes contracted helicopter crews to capture and radio-collar 160 adult female mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) located within the Tribes former reservation boundary, beginning in the spring of 2010. The does were tracked to their fawning locations, where tribal biologists located the newly-born fawns and collared them with motion sensitive radio transmitters. When the radio collars remained motionless for 4 hours, the collars relayed a mortality signal, which indicated potential mortality of the mule deer.


David Speten, wildlife biologist for the Klamath Tribes, explained that the Tribes have a “survivorship attitude,” when it comes to their relationship with mule deer. They “need the deer, its’ not a hope or want for deer,” as sometimes associated with hunting the deer for sport. Finding relationships between the cause of mortality in fawns and the declining population of mule deer is essential to the progress and preservation of the Klamath Tribe’s culture.


So far, the project found the survivability rate of fawns in the Tribes’ former reservation boundary to be approximately 30-35%, with the primary cause of mortality being predation. Through this research, the Klamath Tribes hope to contribute to the capacity of other natural resource agencies as well as themselves to increase mule deer populations. The Tribes have contributed the projects’ findings to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Klamath Tribes’ Klamath Indian Game Commission both of which set rules for hunting mule deer.


Contact Info: Michael Woodbridge, 916-978-4445, michael_woodbridge@fws.gov



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