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Wyoming’s Big Game Population Management – Trials, Tribulations, and Other Considerations
Daryl Lutz, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Casper, WY
Big game (for purposes here - pronghorn, mule deer and elk) population management in Wyoming is driven by a “management by objective” paradigm. Population objectives are based on desired numbers of animals after the hunting season or “postseason”. Objectives are bio/socio/political management targets agreed to by the Department, landowners, hunters and other “publics”, and Federal land management agencies (i.e., BLM and USFS). Pronghorn numbers in Wyoming continue to do quite well, while mule deer struggle and elk are thriving with the exception of herds adjacent to the park where calf survival is decreased. Elk management is driven primarily by population size with only little consideration to habitat. The Department struggles to adequately increase elk harvest, despite liberal season structures, for a variety reasons. Considerations for other species such as sage-grouse and lynx can complicate efforts to improve important wildlife habitats including sage-brush and aspen and associated communities. The Department is including more habitat information when considering changes to population objectives and recommended hunting seasons. The Mule Deer Initiative directs the Department in the development of management plans for key herds. Finally, an analysis of sagebrush productivity and use by pronghorn is considered.