DWR collars record number of big game animals last winter

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (Utah DWR) has performed health assessments on big game animals every year for the last decade decade.

They place GPS collars on the animals to learn more about their migration patterns and survival rates. Between November 2023 and March, they captured a record 1,779 large animals.

Additional animals studied this year

This year the Utah DWR assessed and collared 209 bighorn sheep, 27 bison, 1,153 deer, 305 elk, 18 moose and 67 pronghorns. Since large mammals have a hard time regulating their body temperatures, assessing them during cool weather helps them recover more quickly. The animals are typically caught by a helicopter crew that uses a net gun. After the health testing the animals are released safely.

Health of the big game population

As reported by the Utah DWR, during this year’s captures, deer across the state were in good nutritional condition. Of the 19 hunting units where deer were captured in December, eight of the units had deer with record high body fat levels. High body fat levels give deer a better chance of surviving the winter. Retaining high body fat levels into spring also leads to fawns with healthy birth weights. In March, 235 deer were caught on five different hunting units across the state. Nearly all of the animals were in good condition. The captured does also had a high pregnancy rate (97%).

How GPS collars are used

“The GPS collars provide crucial data that informs planning for sustainable land use, transportation, energy, residential and commercial development, recreation and habitat improvement in a variety of areas across the state,” said Makeda Hanson, DWR Utah wildlife migration initiative coordinator. “One component of that is incorporating wildlife structures on the landscape to assist wildlife migration. Those structures include overpasses, bridges, culverts and fences.”

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