Research Will Focus On Deer In Northwest Kansas

EMPORIA – Kansas State University and Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) are collaborating to study mule deer and white-tailed deer in northwestern Kansas. The comprehensive research project will monitor movement, habitat use, survival and reproductive success of deer in an eight-county area of northwest Kansas. Researchers will seek to answer questions that hunters, landowners, and biologists have about deer densities, deer-human interactions, crop damage, and the effects of landscape changes on deer populations. Especially concerning are recent observation indices of mule deer, suggesting that the range of this iconic Kansas plains species is contracting westward and the population could be declining.

The study will last three years, beginning in February 2018 with the capture of 120 mule deer and white-tailed deer that will receive GPS radio transmitters. Deer will be captured and transported using helicopters operated by a professional wildlife-capture company experienced with this process. A veterinarian will oversee the handling and marking of all captured deer. In addition to monitoring deer movement, survival of different year classes, causes of mortality, and species interactions, researchers will capture fawns in May and June to document reproductive rates.

While the overall health of the Kansas deer herd is good, no recent studies have been done that provide this level of information, which will help biologists make informed decisions for future management of this important wildlife resource. More than 120,000 hunters pursue deer in Kansas each fall, contributing more than $10 million to fund wildlife management programs through the purchase of permits. The overall impact deer hunters have on the Kansas economy is much greater.

Contact information will be attached to each radio transmitter and hunters who harvest a marked deer should contact researchers to provide information on where and when the deer was harvested. Cooperating landowners will be provided with data gathered, so they can better manage deer on their land, and a written report will be published and available to the public online at the conclusion of the project.