MONTICELLO — A recent deer transplant should help mule deer on Antelope Island State Park while giving two deer herds in southern Utah a “shot in the arm.”
In mid-January, 100 mule deer — all females — were captured on Antelope Island. Fifty of the deer were released on the San Juan, Elk Ridge deer unit in southeastern Utah. The remaining 50 were released on the Mount Dutton unit in south-central Utah.
Dustin Mitchell, a Division of Wildlife Resources regional wildlife biologist in southeastern Utah, says biologists placed ear tags on all of the does that were released on Elk Ridge.
“Twenty five of the does were also fitted with radio collars,” he says. “The radio collars will allow us to track their movements. Keeping track of the deer will help us know how many of them survived after being moved to a new home.”
Mitchell says the newly arrived does will not only increase the number of females that can reproduce on the units, they’ll also introduce new genes into the herd that will hopefully give the deer “a shot in the arm.”
Unfortunately, both Elk Ridge and Mount Dutton have a history of low deer numbers and poor fawn production. But they also have ample, quality habitat that can support more deer than the number that currently resides there. “Hopefully,” Mitchell says, “the does will give these herds a boost.”
Mitchell says this is the second time deer have been transplanted from Antelope Island State Park. In February 2014, 100 deer were captured and then released in southern Utah, 50 on the San Juan, Elk Ridge unit and 50 on the Mount Dutton unit.
The transplant will also benefit deer on Antelope Island. Because deer hunting is very limited on the island — only two buck deer permits are offered each year — the deer population is way over the number the island’s habitat can sustain.
“The population objective for the island is 350 deer,” Mitchell says. “The latest survey found 600 to 800 deer on the island.”
Moving deer off the island helps reduce the herd to numbers the island’s habitat can sustain.
Mitchell says many agencies, conservation groups and volunteers, including Antelope Island State Park, the DWR, the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, worked hand in hand to make the transplant effort possible.