Pronghorn

About our work

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We conduct ecological research to help better understand, manage and conserve animal populations. Our applied research program builds knowledge about wildlife populations and communities by seeking general solutions to specific management and conservation challenges. Although our ecological research interests are broad, we tend to focus on large mammals (ungulates in particular), and we seek to understand their behavior, population dynamics, community-level interactions, and the factors that sustain their seasonal migrations.

Vast, wild landscapes that still support functional ecosystems are a hallmark of Wyoming and the West. Our work seeks to better understand how these systems work and how their functioning is altered by anthropogenic disturbance and habitat loss. By better understanding the ecology of the Western landscape, we hope to provide knowledge and tools to managers that seek to maintain healthy wildlife habitats and communities.

 

Projects

  • What are the migration patterns of buck mule deer in Wyoming? There has been such an emphasis on mule deer migration research lately that folks probably think researchers and managers know the answer to this question. They don’t. That is because all of our mule deer research efforts over the last decade and a half have been focused on does. We have learned a lot about the timing, distance, stopover use, and migration routes of mule deer does. This study seeks to understand whether timing, distance-traveled, fidelity to routes, and ability to track high quality forage differ between bucks and does. More

  • The Wind River Reservation provides vast and intact winter range for at least 10,000 elk and approximately 5,000 deer on the Owl Creek and Wind River Mountain winter ranges in northwest WY. Large groups of elk (1,000+) have been routinely observed moving onto tribal lands in early winter and moving onto lands managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in the summer and fall. Thus, the Wind River Reservation provides crucial winter range for elk that are hunted on public land during the fall. Elk also provide recreational, cultural and subsistence values to thousands of enrolled Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho members of Wind River Reservation. Despite these benefits, we do not know the location of migration corridors, stopover areas used by elk or mule deer. Understanding the location and use of these areas is critical to conserving and managing these herds for future generations. Further, we have a limited understanding of the demography of this herd (adult survival, pregnancy rates), and how diseases such as Brucellosis could be influencing population growth. Our proposed work seeks to fill these knowledge gaps to better manage these important herd into the future. More

  • There has never been a detailed study of moose in the Bighorns. Consequently, seasonal ranges and migration corridors have not been mapped using current methods. Additionally, moose are not native to the Bighorns. Managers from the Bighorn National Forest have expressed concerns to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department regarding the amount of wild ungulate (especially moose) use of willow and aspen in many areas. Thus, there is a need to understand the intensity of moose browsing and how it influence moose habitat use and demography. This proposed project seeks to evaluate the population performance and seasonal range use of moose in the Bighorns. More

  • Although Wyoming has approximately half of the world’s total population of pronghorn, factors influencing local herds have been little studied. We propose to study the effects of wind energy development on the movement of pronghorn that winter in Shirley Basin south to the town of Medicine Bow. The broad objective of this 6-year study is to evaluate whether pronghorn change their seasonal movements or winter habitat use in response to wind energy development. Study results will aid wildlife managers to evaluate likely impacts and explore potential solutions to minimize habitat loss for wintering pronghorn. More

  • Interstate-80 is a barrier to ungulate movement across Southern Wyoming. Pronghorn (antilocapra Americana) are particularly affected by the Interstate, as it impedes their ability to roam in winter range. Meanwhile, our understanding of the environmental influences of migrations is continuing to develop into a more complete picture which can help inform restoration and mitigation efforts for wildlife. As wildlife overpasses are becoming an increasingly popular tool to improve habitat connectivity, our research is interested in trying to inform where would be the optimal locations to restore movement across the Interstate. This project will assess where pronghorn are most frequently moving along the Interstate to identify locations where pronghorn appear most affected by the barrier effect. More

  • Although migration may be the most optimal strategy in numerous ungulate systems, many migratory herds contain individuals that do not migrate or migrate relatively short distances – a phenomena known as partial migration. If long-distance migration, however, is commonly viewed as the most profitable strategy promoting herd fitness and population performance, what allows residents – or other strategies – to persist over the long-term? More

  • Mule deer in the Sweetwater mule deer herd move seasonally from high elevations in Green and Crooks Mountains to wintering habitats at low elevations along the Sweetwater River, but relatively little is understood about the timing of migration and the critical migration routes used by these mule deer. It is important to identify migration routes to ensure mule deer are protected and routes remain permeable to mule deer movement. The broad objective of this study is to understand movements, migrations, and seasonal ranges of the Sweetwater mule deer herd. More

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