How Humans Are Hurting & Helping Wyoming Mule Deer Migration
We are used to seeing mule deer and other migrating species moving down certain pathways during certain times of the year.
Some will make the mistake of thinking that they have always taken this same route and that it should not change.
Yet through constant natural climate and geographic changes, those migration patterns have always been and are now still evolving.
Wyoming’s mule deer migrations are among the longest in the world. In some cases, they can move hundreds of miles.
Human activity also affects the mule deer route. Homes, towns ditches, fencing, massive wind farms and so much more make the migrating herd look for a different way.
It is not known if the mule deer learn from their mothers or if there is something else that causes them to take the routes that they do.
As long as they can find food and water along the way and are able to travel in relative safety, changes to their route will not harm them, in the long run.
Predators have long waited along the route of the mule deer migration, as well as other migrating animals. Just like the mule deer know their route predators have learned when and where to wait.
Those predators include the native Americans who needed meat to survive the winter.
Today a lot of work is being done to make sure that migrating species have a route that they can take to, literally, greener pastures.
Wildlife bridges over interstates, for example. The migrating animals find them and use them with great success, keeping them away from having to cross the interstate.
So while humans are putting but barriers that confuse migrating animals, at the same time humans are looking for ways to allow these herds safe passage.
It is okay if migration patterns change, as long as the migration is allowed to continue.
It is a constant experiment. We are not perfect, but for the most part, we humans are getting better at being good stewards.