Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Oklahoma
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Oklahoma Project

Oklahoma Mule Deer Population Evaluation

July 2023 - June 2027


Participating Agencies

  • Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Recent apparent population declines across mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) range in the American West are of interest to biologists and managers. Mule deer in Oklahoma are near the southeastern extent of the species’ range; thus, their distribution is limited and densities are presumably low. Mule deer populations in Oklahoma are restricted currently to areas that are typically characterized by extreme weather events, high variability in resource availability, and an increasing influence of anthropogenic activities associated with agricultural operations and energy infrastructure. In Oklahoma, data are limited to annual harvest numbers, and mule deer are hunted and managed under white-tailed deer (O. virginianus) regulations. To better understand the distribution, abundance, and population ecology of mule deer and to inform harvest management in western Oklahoma, we are proposing a comprehensive research project. We will assess methods for investigating and monitoring mule deer distribution and spatial variation in abundance. We will estimate survival and factors influencing mortality in adult females and fawns, and we will obtain estimates of fecundity and recruitment. We will investigate movements and habitat selection in the context of the potential effects of anthropogenic pressures (including agriculture and energy infrastructure) and environmental variability. Additionally, we will leverage mule deer data in the Texas Panhandle to evaluate movement ecology and population dynamics at an interstate scale. This research will assist Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) in managing mule deer by providing data to support decision-making on monitoring, harvest, and habitat management.

Presentations Presentation Date
Koeck, M., C. Ellis, M. Cherry, W.S. Fairbanks, L. Heffelfinger, R.C. Lonsinger, A. Moeller, M.C. Chitwood. 2024. Evaluating the interactions between mule deer and white-tailed deer in western Oklahoma. The Wildlife Society Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD. October 2024
Ellis, C.C., M.J. Cherry, M.M. Koeck, M.C. Chitwood, A.K. Moeller, R.C. Lonsinger, W.S. Fairbanks, and L.J. Heffelfinger. 2024. The Oklahoma mule deer research project: evaluating population performance and abundance estimation methods. The Wildlife Society Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD. October 2024