SPOKANE - The state Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to capture mule deer from helicopters in three study areas along the east slope of the Cascades in Okanogan, Chelan and Kittitas counties.
The department will use contracted professional crews to capture approximately 50 adult female mule deer in each area. Humane methods and experienced crews are used to make the captures as safe as possible for both deer and humans.
The deer will be fitted with GPS/satellite collars so wildlife managers can track them to evaluate movement and migration patterns and learn more about habitat use of the populations.
Each animal will be collared and released at the site where captured. The collars are programmed to remain on the deer for four years before dropping off, said the department.
Studies in Chelan and Kittitas counties are funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are part of a collaboration between the U.S. Department of the Interior and state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Captures and collaring in Okanogan County are part of an ongoing collaboration between the department and the University of Washington, called the Washington Predator-Prey Project, that is studying interactions between mule deer and large carnivores in the Methow watershed.
“The information gained from these studies will be used to assess the movements of each population and help prioritize habitat conservation and management efforts in eastern Washington,” said Sara Hansen, department deer specialist.
Mule deer have lost winter habitat in recent years along the lower elevations of the east slope of the Cascades because of human development. That could impact mule deer populations in the long term, said the department.
Captures are scheduled to begin in Okanogan County this week and continue south as work is completed in each study area.
Mule deer are broadly distributed in Washington from the crest of the Cascade Mountains east to the Idaho border, providing hunting and viewing opportunities for thousands of people each year.