Deer on the move

VAST Resources provides update on East Kootenay Mule Deer Translocation Study; deer exhibiting wide range of movement

Deer taken from Elkford at release site last March.

Deer taken from Elkford at release site last March.

Municipalities across British Columbia, seeking solutions for urban deer problems, have their eyes on the translocation study currently being conducted in the East Kootenay by VAST Resources. Ian Adams, who is heading up the study for VAST, has provided an update as we head into Autumn.

Deer have been quite visible in Kimberley this summer, and Coun. Darryl Oakley, Council’s representative on the Urban Deer Committee says there will be another count conducted in mid to late November. The only deer removed from Kimberley in the past year are the 20 taken for a translocation study.

Last February and March, 60 mule deer were removed from Kimberley, Invermere, Elkford and Cranbrook and released at four locations with mule deer winter range throughout the East Kootenay. 29 of the 60 deer were fitted with GPS radio collars which transmit location every 13 hours, and also provide a ‘mortality alert’ if there is no movement for eight hours.

Adams reports that 20 of the 29 GPS collar deployments remain on the air. There have been eight known mortalities and one collar stopped transmitting in early June – the fate of that deer is unknown.

iven that the other collars have performed very well, the deer is likely dead and collar destroyed rather than a malfunction, but that is possible. There have been no mortalities since June 10.

One deer was shot in Eureka, MT, by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park Game Wardens after the deer had moved into Eureka and was very aggressively chasing people. Montana FWP staff regretted having to shoot the deer but felt they had no other choice to protect public safety. Three mortalities were confirmed cougar kills, two probably cougar kills, one probably bear kill and one probable wolf kill.

So far, the collared, translocated deer are exhibiting a higher mortality rate (28.6%) than a study of non-urban mule deer (20% in 2015 and 14% in 2016). There will be more detail on these comparisons in the study’s final report.

The translocated deer are exhibiting a wide range of movement, especially into northwest Montana.

The greatest concern was the movement of several collared deer into populated communities prior to fawning. Most individuals were well away from other municipalities and communities from time of release until May. From mid-May through early June, the high degree of movement resulted in several deer “finding” human developments, from small semi-rural areas (e.g. Rosen Lake near Jaffray, BC and, earlier in April, Baynes Lake, BC) to larger centres.

Eight collared deer have been in Montana at some point since translocation.

While deer finding other communities is a concern, most collared deer have not settled in developed areas. Of the 25 collared deer that survived over one month post-release, 12 have never returned to or found another populated community or repeatedly made use of rural/agricultural areas. Several other deer have either passed through a populated community or spent some time there (more than three consecutive 13 hour GPS location intervals) then moved on. Only two deer are currently in populated communities.

Collars will continue to be monitored through the fall and winter. The researchers are interested in knowing where collared deer currently at higher elevations (some of the group released from Invermere) will move later in the fall. Will deer currently at low elevations near Koocanusa Reservoir remain in these areas all winter or move into semi-rural communities or elsewhere? What will survivorship be of translocated deer spending a full winter outside urban areas?