Elk NetworkWinter Survival Good for Idaho Elk Calves, Mule Deer Fawns

Conservation | April 24, 2020

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Statewide winter survival of radio-collared mule deer fawns and elk calves was above average through the end of March, and Fish and Game officials are optimistic that those numbers will continue on their current trajectory through the end of the monitoring period on June 1.

“In terms of winter survival, it looks like this year is going to come in above average, which would mean more young animals are recruited into the herds, and that would be great news for our deer and elk populations and our hunters,” said Daryl Meints, Deer and Elk Program Coordinator for Fish and Game. “We still have another month and a half to go before those ‘young of the year’ are recruited into the population and we will continue monitoring through June 1, but I’m hopeful the final numbers will remain above average.”

A relatively mild winter in much of the state bolstered survival, and spring weather is arriving or has arrived in many locations, so the latest survival reports continue to be encouraging. Meints said that while he anticipates some additional animals will die before June 1, winter survival of collared fawns and calves this year is tracking similar to 2012-13 and 2015-16. Both of those years saw above-average winter survival.

“While it’s not going to be a record-setting year, if the favorable weather conditions continue, 2019-20 is still going to be a pretty good year for over-winter survival of radio collared fawns and elk calves,” Meints added.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists began the winter monitoring 193 mule deer fawns and 180 elk calves that were captured earlier in the winter and fitted with telemetry collars.

Through the end of March, 73 percent of the collared fawns and 84 percent of the collared calves were still alive. That compares with 58 and 84 percent surviving through March in 2018-19, 69 and 82 percent in 2017-18, and 41 and 67 percent in 2016-17.

Fish and Game also began the winter monitoring 516 radio collared mule deer does and 542 radio collared elk cows. Through March, winter survival was 96 and 98 percent, respectively.

“Our does and cows are also faring very well this year,” Meints said.

(Photo source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)