Mule Deer - Management
Illustration by Michael Francis
Mule deer are an important economic animal that serve many crucial roles ecologically as well as for humans. Hunters of mule deer contribute billions of dollars during hunting season across western North America which goes towards supporting state wildlife management agencies. Decline of mule deer populations would lead to decreased funds for these agencies provided not only by hunters but groups such as “wildlife watchers.” The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) created the Mule Deer Working Group to address the issue of creating a sustainable population of mule deer in western North America. An important technique utilized by management agencies is adjusting hunting regulations to compensate for increasing or decreasing herd populations. Increase in antlerless permits is an important way to reduce population size over time. Population management goals are developed to include the needs of hunters (more deer), landowners (fewer deer or crop damage), or other varied federal land uses. It’s often difficult to manage for all needs equally and the area of management is a variable in how a local population of mule deer is managed. Habitat management is another factor in controlling for mule deer populations. Increased agricultural and cattle grazing land is a major contributing factor to the decline in quality mule deer habitat. Many herds of cattle have unrestricted access to local rivers and water sources causing local riparian zones to be trampled to a point that mule deer habitat can’t exist. National and state parks in the west are the only areas that can be effectively managed for mule deer habitat and even those areas are of poorer quality. The Mule Deer Working groups plans outlined in the North American Mule Deer Conservation Plan are guided towards increasing quality of mule deer habitat while still maintaining a good relationship with the public in terms of hunting and landowner groups.
Mule deer are a large source of income in the western states, with hunters and wildlife viewers as the main contributors. Many people traveling to areas such as Rocky Mountain National Park prefer to see the larger mammals that they can’t normally see around their own residence. Because mule deer are so plentiful in western states such as Colorado they are a common treat visitors can experience. Being as almost all National Parks have a fee for visitors it is a source of income to help keep the mule deer habitats of the park of a decent quality and the parks protected. Mule deer hunters contribute millions of dollars through lodging, licenses, supplies, food, and gas purchases in one given hunting season. This money is put towards habitat and wildlife management (mainly license fees) and towards the overall economic growth of local areas where hunters stay and hunt during hunting seasons.