By Geoff Swannell
Why are some of our Interior mule deer populations declining? How are predators and the recent huge wildfires affecting them?
To answer those questions, B.C.’s largest collaborative mule deer study was launched last year. Working together are the BC Wildlife Federation and many local Fish and Game Clubs, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the Universities of Idaho and British Columbia (Okanagan), and the BC Wildlife Branch. Some funding is also provided by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.
The Southern Interior Mule Deer Project should be of particular interest to area residents, as the Elephant Hill wildfire is one of the study areas. Other study locations include the Kettle River area and the Peachland/Garnet Valley.
Dr. Adam Ford, assistant UBC professor and Canadian Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology, will be in Kamloops from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 11 to provide a further project description touching on what has been learned so far. The free seminar is open to the public at the Thompson Rivers University Alumni Theatre, Clock Tower.
So far about 30 mule deer does have been radio-collared and tracked in each of the three areas. Any mortality is investigated. Another 90 does and 60 fawns are planned to be collared and tracked over this winter.
Once animal movements are known, camera traps will be placed this spring, when the research teams have collected a full year of deer movement data. As well, ground analysis will provide local information as to what mule deer are eating, what forage is preferred, and (significantly) which plants might be suppressed.
The new information, combined with the history and background knowledge of the areas, will be used in the future management and restoration of deer populations.
Geoff Swannell is Director of the Kamloops and District Fish and Game Association.