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

Wyoming Project

Mule Deer Fitness Nutrition

January 2013 - December 2016


Participating Agencies

  • Boone & Crockett Club

Strong behavioral responses of ungulates to development have been well documented and likely induce demographic changes. Nonetheless, the potential link and thus mechanism between altered behavior and population-level change remain a key knowledge gap inhibiting effective mitigation. We propose a three-year study of nutrition and fitness of mule deer in the face of a gradient of human disturbance associated with natural gas development across three winter ranges in western Wyoming: the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA), and two distinct winter ranges occupied by Wyoming Range mule deer. Our goal is to evaluate the nutritional and fitness consequences of behavioral avoidance and indirect habitat loss associated with displacement by energy development. Concurrently evaluating the influence of individual nutritional condition on winter habitat use and seasonal changes in nutritional condition as a function of disturbance levels will help reveal the mechanisms underlying disturbance-related impacts on animal fitness. This work draws strength from 12 years of detailed research on the behavioral responses of mule deer to energy development in the study area, along with substantial in-kind support from ongoing research, while providing a mechanistic evaluation of the cumulative effects of energy development at a large spatial scale.