A new study shows that surface disturbance from energy development can hinder mule deer migrations when it exceeds 3 percent.
Researchers from the University of Wyoming and Western Ecosystems Technology used 15 years of movement data collected from GPS-collared mule deer in western Wyoming to evaluate how much disturbance mule deer could withstand during migration. The study was conducted in the Pinedale Anticline — the sixth-largest natural gas field in the nation and home to one of the largest deer herds in the West.
The findings were published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.
Researchers used 145 migrations from 56 individual deer to examine disturbance effects at various scales. Results consistently showed that mule deer use of migration corridors steeply declined when surface disturbance from roads and well pads surpassed 3 percent. Mule deer were able to migrate through areas where surface disturbance was lower. MORE
Header image: Mule deer move across a sagebrush-covered basin in western Wyoming. New research shows that surface disturbance from energy development can hinder mule deer migrations when it exceeds 3 percent. Credit: Joe Riis.