Winter getting tough on wildlife

SUBLETTE COUNTY, WYO – This winter is beginning to have take a toll on wildlife throughout the region. Mule deer and elk in the Green River and Evanston areas are starting to get desperate about seeking forage and some die-off has begun.

Baggs Game Warden Kim Olson took these photos of elk and mule deer on a snowy hill recently. (WGFD)

Mountain View Game Warden Allen Deru reports that area landowners are experiencing problems due to elk getting into haystacks. Deru says animals in the Bridger Valley are dealing with a fairly tough winter, especially when there is not a whole lot of forage on the range, due to the drought conditions this last year.

Deru set up a trail camera on the haystack to try and get a count of how many elk were coming in to feed, but said it was difficult when this bull elk decided to eat directly in front of the camera most of the night. Green River wildlife managers are keeping a close eye on winter conditions and how game animals are faring.

Haystack, heavy snow drifts and blown-in fence near Mountain View. (WGFD)

Evanston Game Warden Nick Roberts reported some elk and mule deer damage to landowners’ livestock feed. Roberts also documented some fawn deer dying in haystacks. As of this writing, conditions appear to be the worst in the Evanston area, with bitterly cold temperatures and the snow is crusted over. Some animals are struggling and succumbing to the winter conditions.

Green River Wildlife Supervisor Todd Graham wanted to pass along how things are going so far this winter in the Green River Region.

“We have had several snow storms in January accompanied by cold temperatures,” Graham said. “Whereas most of the region is experiencing average winter conditions, the Evanston, Bridger Valley and Green River areas now seem to be facing a harder than usual winter.”

The worst conditions are in the Evanston area where deer fawns have died in town. There are quite a few moose near town as well that Game and Fish says it will keep an eye on. Late elk seasons have helped keep elk damage at a minimum, but now that the seasons are closed there are elk in position to create damage. Some deer damage is also occurring.

WGFD Green River Region Office parking lot end of January 2019 storm. (WGFD)

“We are also experiencing big game damage around Cokeville, Bridger Valley and Farson. At this point we are not seeing impacts to wildlife like we did in the 2016-17 winter, although we have had several collared deer die both north and south of Rock Springs,” Graham added.

On a brighter note, ice conditions in the region are great for ice fishing this winter. Most all of Flaming Gorge Reservoir is frozen on the Wyoming side. The Burbot Bash on Flaming Gorge Reservoir was a success, with 212 teams entered. This number is up from last year. One ORV went through the ice, but no one was hurt.

The ‘Ding the Ling’ ice fishing derby was held February 8-10 on Fontenelle Reservoir and there were 142 participants and 479 burbot removed.

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