IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - Last winter was extremely harsh on the mule deer population across Idaho. According to Fish and Game Wildlife Manager Zach Lockyer, high percentages of mule deer perished due to lack of food.
"Along the Wyoming border down by Bear Lake was the worst hit area and we saw over 95% mortality on mule deer fawns and over 50% mortality on adults," Lockyer said. "On an average year, we see about 40% mortality in fawns regardless of what winter conditions are like. In a severe winter like last year, it was significantly higher."
Reproductive success in mule deer depends on several factors including the level of stress in their natural environment. That's why the Fish and Game Commission recently approved a temporary antler gathering closure for the Upper Snake and Southeast regions.
Jennifer Jackson with Fish and Game in Pocatello says the public has an important role to play in helping the herds replenish.
"This closure will actually reduce the number of people that are on the landscape trying to go after horns and antlers, and that also reduces the amount of pressure and stress on those big game animals during the most critical time of the year," she said.
A milder winter and greater food supply combined with preservation efforts by Idaho Fish and Game may be enough to restore mule deer populations leading into next hunting season. Time will tell how long it takes the herds to rebound from this severe population depletion.