Researchers Uncover World's Longest Mule Deer Migration

Biologists studying the movements of wildlife in Wyoming recently uncovered a previously unknown migration route traveled by scores of mule deer each year -- and it's not only the second longest of any land animal on the continent, it's the longest traveled by this species anywhere in the world.

Researchers had once believed that the mule deer herds of Wyoming remained localized in their grazing land. But after using radio collars to track the herd's movements throughout the year, they were surprised to find that they were in fact on traveling an expansive distance, overcoming numerous obstacles in the process.

According to a study conducted by biologist Hall Sawyer, along with the Bureau of Land Management, a group of about 500 thought to always roam in an area north of Rock Springs were actually traveling 150 miles north each Spring to feeding grounds in Wyoming's Hoback Basin.

The journey, as it turns out, is not an easy one. Little did biologists realize that the migrating herds were actually having to pass through hundreds of fences, dozens of roads, and water crossings to arrive at their final destination. Armed with this information, state wildlife authorities are now in a better position to make the herd's epic annual journey a little easier.

"We've been blind to a large chunk of this migration to date, and been fortunate that that landscape has remained intact," said Sawyer, a researcher with Western Ecosystems Technology Inc..

"But it's important for us to understand where this route is so we can take a proactive approach in helping shape future land use practices."