Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials are proposing offering doe-fawn licenses in areas of the state’s northwest in a bid to halt the expansion of whitetail deer, which are moving up from the Teton Range and putting pressure on the area’s mule deer population. According to the Jackson Hole News and Guide, biologists are seeing a decline of mule deer in the west slope of the Tetons, where the whitetails have moved in.
“A lot of the folks were really concerned with the loss of mule deer and are asking us to consider white-tailed licenses,” Game and Fish regional wildlife coordinator Doug Brimeyer said at a recent public meeting in Jackson Hole.
Brimeyer indicated that wildlife officials will be looking at expanded hunting opportunities next December, but steps are already being taken to reduce the whitetail population. Hunters in eight of the nine hunting units near Jackson Hole will be able to take does and fawns as early as this fall. Officials hope that this limited hunting expansion will start to take pressure off the mule deer in the area.
“It seems like the white-tailed is a little more aggressive and a little more competitive, and they’ll out-compete mule deer for the same habitat,” State Senator Leland Christensen (R-Alta) said at the meeting.
The Associated Press reported that officials believe climate change may be the cause of the whitetail expansion. Although both animals are native to the Tetons, whitetails traditionally stick to the lower valley areas while the more hardy mule deer inhabit the higher, mountainous terrain. Although they are an icon of the West, mule deer have been in decline over the past few decades due to habitat loss or extreme weather.